My campaign to visit gardens in autumn continues this week with a trip to Winkworth Arboretum in the quite appropriately leafy Surrey. If you're going to visit an arboretum then the absolute best time to visit is undoubtedly in autumn.
Earlier in the week we had popped down to Claremont Landscape Garden and while we were there I spotted the leaflet for Winkworth Arboretum. I was immediately seduced by the photographs showing bright red leaves and a full colour palette of autumnal hues. With a couple of hours to spare on Saturday afternoon we decided to make the trip and we weren't disappointed.
Up until 1937 the 46 hectares that make up Winkworth Arboretum was owned by the Fisher-Rowe family as part of their Thorncombe Estate. With its steep slopes that formed natural bowls it was deemed unfit for cultivation and was largely left to nature. When the land was passed to the actress Beatrice Lillie she decided to immediately put it up for sale. It was quickly bought by Dr Wilfred Fox who lived at the neighbouring Winkworth Farm. Dr Fox already knew the potential of the land to create a collection of trees and shrubs on a large scale.
By profession Dr Fox was a specialist in dermatology but had long held a passion for trees. In 1928 he helped to set up the Roads Beautifying Association with an aim to promoting ornamental street tree planting. His enthusiasm for trees meant that from amateur gardener he become respected as an expert on the subject.
Once he purchased Winkworth he wasted no time in starting his collection. During the winter of 1937-8 he planted American, Japanese and Norway maples. He felt the the hillside location lent itself perfectly to planting for autumn colour.
As the arboretum developed Dr Fox felt the need to strike a balance between planting for colour and effect against the temptation to add to the collection. Dr Fox had a number of good connections in the gardening and botanical world to help and guide him including W. J. Bean the influential Curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
From the outset Dr Fox always wanted the arboretum to be enjoyed by a wider audience. He allowed the public access to from the beginning and in 1952 gave a large section of it to the National Trust. Five years later the National Trust acquired more land including the lower lake. Dr Fox though ensured he was still part of the future of the arboretum by chairing the Management Committee that was set up to oversee the care and continuing development of Winkworth.
For the visitor to Winkworth Arboretum today they can discover the estate by following one of the three coloured routes. They range from the access for all walk with no steps to the all encompassing 3.6km hike.
The lake had already established when Dr Fox bought the land. It is used by the Winkworth Flyfishers and fishing is only allowed by boat.
The flyfishers are able to use the lower part of the boathouse with the covered upper level open to the public. There is currently an appeal to raise £45,000 in order to pay for urgent repairs to it.
Wherever we looked we were in for a visual treat. If you have an arboretum or woodland near make sure you don't miss for these autumnal delights.