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8 local arboretums to explore this autumn

All change! The trees are turning from green to gorgeous red-brick, crimson and gold - and the best places to see them are these beautiful local arboretums in Bucks, Oxon and beyond.

Autumn means it’s time for nature’s annual art exhibition – leaves changing from green to yellow, orange, red and crimson and every shade in between. Basically if you’re going to head out with the family/dog for a hearty weekend stomp, you won’t find a better time of year to do it. Fancy one of these this weekend?

Harcourt Arboretum, Nuneham Courtney, Oxon 

One of my favourite local arboretums, Harcourt Arboretum has been part of Oxford Botanic Gardens since 1963 and is just six miles south of the city centre. The 130 acres are bursting with gorgeous earthy tones in Autumn – head to the Acer Glade for brick-red redwood trees, the Lime Wood for mellow yellows or the Bluebell Wood for copper tones – plus lots of wildlife including peacocks, red kites, buzzards and piglets. The Arboretum also hosts sweet events throughout the year with autumn’s offering including foraging courses, family craft days and insight tours. Adult tickets £5.45, under 16s free. No dogs allowed. Pre-booking highly recommended.

Thenford Arboretum and Gardens, nr Banbury 

This 70 acre estate, a short drive northwest of the market town of Brackley and east of Banbury, Oxon, surrounds an elegant Georgian house (you can’t enter, but it’s pretty to look at). Along with the landscaped gardens, the arboretum is spread across the 70 acres and features a collection of over 3,000 different trees and shrubs as well as pretty water gardens peppered throughout. There’s also a sculpture garden, rose garden and Medieval fish pond. The pristine gardens and arboretum are only open to the public for a few days a year so hotfoot it down on 17 or 23 Oct if you want to have a nosey. Tickets £16, no dogs allowed.

Batsford Arboretum, Cotswolds

Fancy a Cotswolds day trip? The 55 acre is a big hitter in the warmer months with it’s National Collection of Japanese Flowering Cherries but also has a pretty autumn offering with reddish-purple Japanese maple trees lining the walkways and ornate bridges making it Instagram catnip. There are several photography workshops running throughout the season too, if you fancy going pro. Head to the Garden Terrace Café for a post-walk coffee or afternoon tea, and pick up a few plants on the way out from the garden centre which stocks many of the plants found in the Arboretum. Adult tickets £8.95, child tickets £3.50. Dogs welcome on short leads. Pre-booking essential.

Priestfield Arboretum, Chilterns

Image: Janet Dell

Found within Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, near Great Missenden, this 5.2 acre arboretum has 180 types of trees and allows dogs. The site is privately owned but opens for a few select dates each year, the next and final of the year being 18 Oct. Admission £2.

Westonbirt National Arboretum, Tetbury

Here you’ll find over 15,000 trees, including five national tree collections which you can see from the 300 meter Treetop Walkway or along the many walking or running (erm, no thanks) trails around the Arboretum. Kids are catered for with play areas and Gruffalo sculptures hidden amongst the trees and dogs are allowed in the large Silk Wood. Peak Autumn prices apply from 3 October to 1 November, but the colour here is worth the extra cost. Adult tickets £11-15, child £4. Under 5s go free. Pre-booking essential.

Kew Gardens, London

I love Kew Gardens and used to make an annual pilgrimage here when I lived in London. It’s on the west side of the city so not too far for Bucks & Oxon dwellers too (Kew station is a five minute walk away from the gardens). There’s a awesome 18 meter high Treetop Walkway overlooking the gardens and there are often cool art exhibitions to scope out. If you make the trip on a chilly day you can warm up in the iconic Victorian glasshouses. Adult tickets from £17.50, child tickets from £5.50. No dogs. Pre-booking essential.

Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey 

This 46 hectare arboretum was given to the National Trust over 60 years ago and has loads of rare trees and shrubs amongst the 1,000 varieties found in the gardens, many with berries, nuts and fruits. You’ll also find an impressive fungi selection (none of the magic variety, sorry), although the annual Fungi Foray guided tour sadly looks to be cancelled this year. Adult tickets £10, child tickets £5. Dogs welcome on short leads. Pre-booking essential.

Heartwood Forest, Herts 

Part of the Woodland Trust, Heartwood Forest, found near St Albans, is the largest continuous new forest in England (at a whopping 347 hectares and growing) and has an abundance of wildlife to spot along the various marked trials. Planted in 2015/16, the arboretum is the new kid on the block but when fully grown (as you can see there’s not much there at the moment!) will feature all 60 trees and shrubs native to the British isles, the only arboretum in the UK to do so. Also new is a community orchard which will feature over 600 fruit trees, including many old Hertfordshire varieties of apple, pear, cherry and plumb. Dogs welcome.

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