Today is a day that I have been dreading for a few months now. It’s a year since my sister died of meningitis. The past year has seen me blundering through the process of grief and trying to find a way to cope. I had a real dilemma today, my parents and BIL were going out for lunch to mark the day but this just didn’t seem right for me. I felt a strong need for fresh air, nature, something positive and uplifting I suppose. I decided that a visit to a local arboretum would be the way to go. I have never been a fan of arboretums but my taste and interest in horticulture are changing and I find myself looking at trees with more interest now. I thought visiting somewhere new would be a positive thing to do.
So it was off to Arley Arboretum nr Bewdley about 1 hour away. I always get a little apprehensive on trips on my own in case I get lost and I refuse to have a SatNav as I can’t bear that disembodied voice telling me what to do. However, I found the Arboretum first time despite the horrors of Kidderminster’s roundabouts. I was surprised how busy it was but then the arboretum closes this weekend and it is half term and the sun was shining so it’s hardly surprising.
The Arboretum was originally planted around 1800 by Earl Mountnorris. Due to his botanical knowledge Arley became well known for its exotic and rare tropical plants by the 1840s. The gardens changed hands twice until it was bought by Roger Turner, an industrialist, in 1959. By this time it was neglected and Turner set about restoring the arboretum and estate. When he died in 1999 the estate was left to a Charitable Trust which Turner had set up. The Trust decided that the Arboretum was of sufficient importance to open it to the public and work has continued to extend the garden and arboretum.
You enter via the Italianate Garden which obviously isn’t looking at its best at this time of year. There appears to be a lot of preparation work being done so I suspect this area is planted out with seasonal bedding. Will be worth returning to next Spring/Summer. From here you enter the Arboretum. There are a couple of trails to follow which take about an hour and all the trees are clearly numbered and labelled. Often I find too many labels annoying but given the size of the trees the labels are pretty discreet and very helpful. I fell in love with an Aralia elata (Japanese Angelica Tree). I tried and tried to take a photo of it that would do the tree justice but have failed due to the low light levels but you get some idea from the pic below
What captured my heart were the pink seed heads which you can just see in the photo. I am definitely going to look at getting one of these for my garden.
One of the bonuses of this arboretum is its location overlooking a valley through which the River Severn flows. On the far side of the valley is the Severn Valley Railway a restored steam railway which I have been on numerous times and love. I enjoyed the fact that as you walked round the arboretum you could occasionally hear the train whistle in the distance.
The Arboretum has many beeches which are one of my favorite trees including a stunning Cut Leaf Beech (below), some huge Black Walnuts, Cedar of Lebanon, Ginkgos, Limes, Pines and Wellingtonias. There were also lots of Acers which were looking stunning (very top pic). It was interesting how many young trees had been planted there is obviously some serious development taking place including a young beech maze which is due to open next year, presumably to attract families more.
One of the newish areas that has been developed, though I would guess it has been there about 10 years has a wonderful Hornbeam arcade leading to it and I can imagine in a week of two when these leaves change it will also look amazing
By now you have worked your way back round to the garden and you find yourself at a small lake. I was really surprised to see the Dawn Redwoods planted right on the edge of the lake. There is another well pond in the arboretum and there are Dawn Redwoods planted there as well. I haven’t looked them up yet but I am assuming that these are trees that like their roots in the water but in my head I keep thinking of the Giant Redwoods, hopefully these are a dwarf version!!
From this point you make your way back into the garden which despite the planting being over was very interesting but I will save that for another post.
I finished my visit with lunch in the tea room and watched the world go by, bought some plants and made my way home the scenic route so to avoid Kidderminster. It took much longer but the views and scenery in rural Worcestershire are beautiful.
I feel much better than when I left home, my head feels clearer and I feel at peace. My sister was always someone who took the attitude that life was too short and to give things a go, which is ironic given she was only 37 when she died. I have tried very hard this year to learn from her and loosing her so young and to grab life and give it a good shake. I haven’t always been successful, sometimes I have been so incredibly tired (another symptom of grief I’m told) but other times I have succeeded. Before this year I wouldn’t have thought of rounding up 25 twitter/blogging friends and organising a trip for them to Highgrove, I would have found reasons not to sign up for the RHS course and I wouldn’t have thrown concerns about money to the wind and taken my sons to Italy for a holiday they will never forget. Amazingly one of the biggest sources of support I have had over the last year has been from my blogging and twitter friends and they have no idea just how much I have appreciated their kind words and support – thank you all very much.
I’m not a religious person in the sense of organised religion and what faith I had has been seriously challenged this year but I do believe that there are forces of nature at work around us. Once again Mother Nature has helped to heal me and recharge my batteries, I now have lots of ideas to think about and plans to take me forward.