Rural Rides (4)

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Winkworth Arboretum

TOWT and I had a trip out to Winkworth Arboretum which is situated just outside of Godalming in Surrey.  It is a hillside arboretum with over 1,000 different shrubs and trees and has been under the care of the National Trust for around 60 years.

The brains behind the arboretum were those belonging to Dr Wilfrid Fox (1875 – 1962) who, as well as being a practising dermatologist, was a keen horticulturist and, especially, dendrologist. He was instrumental in founding in 1928 the Roads Beautifying Association whose mission was to improve the streetscape by planting ornamental trees along pavements. He was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour, the Royal Horticultural Society’s highest award, for his pioneering work in this field.

Until 1937 the land which is now occupied by the Arboretum was part of the Thorncombe estate owned by the Fisher-Rowe family. The estate then passed to the actress Beatrice Lillie who immediately put it up for sale in lots. Fox who lived at the neighbouring Winkworth Farm snapped up some of the land and set about creating his arboretum.

Unusually Fox was not precious about his creation and allowed the great unwashed to tramp around the arboretum from the outset. In 1952 he gave 62 acres, including the Upper Lake to the National Trust and a further 35 acres, including the Lower Lake, were acquired five years later. He chaired the Management Committee which was established to maintain and continue to develop the arboretum until his death in 1962.

The site is like an amphitheatre with the lake surrounded by tree-clad hills. There is a preponderance of specimens from the sorbus genus, including mountain ash and hornbeam. Some of the walks, particularly on Sorbus hill, can only be described as challenging but are well worth the effort for the stunning views they command.

Our visit was timed to enable us to enjoy the stunning glades full of bluebells and ferns and the Azalea steps which were a riot of colour, the yellows, reds and white dappled by the sunlight. We can’t wait to revisit in the autumn when the leaves on the trees are sure to be breath-taking.

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