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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.

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. Booking essential unless you have a pass. obga.ox.ac.uk

Thenford Arboretum and Gardens, near 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 21 Sept, or mark out 16 and 22 Oct in your diaries if you want to have a nosey. Tickets £16, no dogs allowed. henfordarboretum.com

Batsford Arboretum, Cotswolds

Fancy a Cotswolds day trip? These 55 acres are a big hitter in the warmer months with their National Collection of Japanese Flowering Cherries, but they also have a pretty autumn offering with reddish-purple Japanese maple trees lining the walkways. (The ornate bridges in particular make 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, unless you are a Batsford member. batsarb.co.uk

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 17 Oct. Well-behaved dogs welcome. Guide books are £2. priestfieldarboretum.org.uk

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. Adult tickets £11, child £4. Under 5s go free. Well-behaved dogs welcome. Pre-booking essential. forestryengland.uk

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 an 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. No dogs. Pre-booking essential. kew.org

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) once the mushrooms are out in full force. Adult tickets £11, child tickets £5.50. Dogs welcome on short leads. Pre-booking essential. nationaltrust.org.uk/winkworth-arboretum

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. There are also stunning pockets of ancient woodland dotted throughout, to admire right now. 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. heartwood.woodlandtrust.org.uk

To celebrate the changing season, we’re giving away FIVE copies of sweet new children’s book When Plants Took Over The Planet, by Dr Chris Thorogood (a botanist at University of Oxford) on our Instagram.

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