An arboretum “in a narrow sense is a collection of trees only”; Batsford Arboretum prides itself on having a lot more than just trees. It uses a much wider definition of being a Botantical Garden with living collections of plants for scientific study; for example, it holds the National Collection of Japanese Flowering Cherry. There is so much to do in the Cotswolds, so many gardens to see, that it is easy to overlook places. Batsford Arboretum has been ‘on my radar’ for sometime but I just haven’t got around to visiting it. Today that changed, and I am really pleased I went. Batsford Arboretum is a great place and it has a tea towel!! A simple cotton tea towel, a brilliant white background with green sketches of different parts of the Arboretum; it is that white, that is crying out for a tea stain.
Batsford Arboretum is 55 acres of botanical gardens near Moreton-in-the-Marsh, owned and run by the Batsford Foundation, a registered charity. There are 2900 trees, a very large collection of Japanese Maple, magnolias and pines, not to mention those Japanese Flowering Cherry. What makes this garden different is that (a) it’s design is based on what the founder, Algernon Freeman-Mitford, had observed in Japanese and Chinese gardens – a passion of his and (b) as you walk round you come across statues, large and small, buildings, carvings…….There is a bronze Buddha which Algernon described as “High up in the wildest part of the wild garden, under the shade of a spreading oak, there stands, or rather sits, turned towards the east, as is fitting, a bronze statue of Buddha of heroic size. His hand is raised in the attitude of preaching…..”. Buddha’s palm is held flat and visitors occasionally lay coins there (although there is not a sign requesting that you should). When I was there a family were discussing whether they should lay coins in the palm, what happened to the money and if everyone was leaving coins why was there not more. In the end they decided against leaving any money!
The Japanese Rest House is nearby where the surround of the front door is covered in Japanese script about the role, and importance, of bamboo in life. Inside the Rest House is a table made from elm; the table top being a slice of the trunk. On it is added a ‘time line’ showing the age of the tree and world events at the different stages of growth. As you wander around, the Japanese theme continues with the bronze deer grazing on the open grass, a Foo Dog with a globe. It is really nice following the paths and coming across various pieces of art work. At one point there is a simple sign saying ‘Daphne’ but not indicating what it is referring to. The people I was standing with could not decide what it meant – a plant? a tree? and then turning the corner Daphne came into view – a large carving of a full length Daphne with her hair blowing in the wind. She is beautiful, blending into the landscape. While the Buddha, the Foo Dog, the Rest House and the Japanese Stone Lantern are all on the tea towel, I do think Daphne should also claim her place. The Mansion on the tea towel is not open to the public.
The Arboretum is crossed by many streams and the Rockery Bridge is just one of many bridges. When I was there an artist, with his canvas and easel, was painting the Rockery Brdige. It is certainly a garden to inspire an artist. In May, the Handkerchief Tree is in full bloom with white translucent leaves and a black seed pod hanging down. It is stunning and reminded me of the Wishing Tree at Christmas where you hang messages for those that have died.
Because the Mansion isn’t open to the public there is an interesting history of the estate – being owned, at one point, by the father of the Mitford sisters – which isn’t explored. I’d like to know more about the time the Mitford sisters stayed there during the First World War. This tea towel will always remind me of a delightful day out, bright and sunny, with a wonderful garden to explore where they actually had a tea towel!!
Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum