178: Harcourt Arboretum…beautiful autumn colours

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: No fixed distance. This is an “explore”. Please note that no dogs apart from “assistance” are allowed.

Time to walk: As long as you like

Difficulty: A mixture of paths & meadows

Parking: Car park at the entrance. Entrance to the arboretum is £6.30 per standard adult ticket plus the usual concessions

Public toilets: Close to the entrance

Map of the route:

This is not a formal walk. This is a walk for exploring & we have written it as a great place to see autumn colours.

We did the (dotted line) Arboretum Amble which is an easy 1 mile walk that takes approximately 30-45 minutes & includes native woodland & wildflower meadows. There is plenty of opportunity to break away at several points & explore the longer (green) paths through the meadows

Harcourt Arboretum is owned & run by the University of Oxford. The arboretum is located six miles south of Oxford near the village of Nuneham Courtenay & comprises some 150 acres

The arboretum forms an integral part of the tree & plant collection of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. It occupies part of what were the grounds of Nuneham House, about 1.5 miles from the house itself. It was designed to form an impressive entrance to the landscaped grounds of the house

The grounds include a 10 acre typical English woodland & a 37 acre summer flowering meadow. In late spring, the azaleas & rhododendrons are especially impressive. There are carpets of  bluebells in the woods too &, in the autumn, the leaf colours are brilliant, including Japanese Maples. Wild peacocks roam the grounds, as they have since the establishment of the arboretum. In recent years, paths have been improved for accessibility

We visited in the autumn to see the azalea & maple displays, but would definitely go back at different times of the year

Let’s Walk!

1. Entrance fees paid, make you way into the arboretum…

…& now simply begin to follow the trail of your choice which is clearly marked. As mentioned, we followed the ‘Arboretum Amble’

2. The first thing that grabs you is how pristine the trees & plants are…this is an amazing place

3. Soon the azaleas & maples start to appear as you enter ‘Azalea Glade…it’s not really difficult to spot them!

4. The path starts to climb slightly & more colours appear at every turn…

5. Some of the trees don’t look real, but they are…

…& it’s not just trees as the bushes are putting on a display too

6. Just when you think you’ve seen everything this glade can offer there’s an immaculately placed specimen which is just mind-blowing

7. The path we’re following now exits the ‘Glade’ & passes through an are called ‘Coppice’, before entering ‘Bluebell Wood’. There’s an opportunity at the junction to bear left towards ‘Palmer Ley’s Woodland & Meadows. We however carry on through an area populated by beautiful ferns…

8. The path continues to rise, but it’s not a steep gradient. It now enters another stunning area called ‘Lime Wood’. You really get a sense of the sheer size of these trees & the colours, this time of the leaves are stunning…

9. The path continues to the far westerly side of the arboretum. Look out for the pig enclosure in this area. Then it suddenly turns back on itself & heads east, passing through a large open area called ‘Historic Parkland & Meadow’. Again there are some stunning trees…

10. On the left a very attractive pond with some good information boards telling you what to look for. It was at this point one of the “locals” appeared…

The Indian peacocks & peahens at the Arboretum are not domesticated, & have lived here ever since their ancestors were introduced from the Indian subcontinent in the 19th century. There are around 15 birds on site, although many also live in the neighbouring village of Nuneham Courtenay

Through the gate & you’re back in the car park

So that’s our brief look at Harcourt Arboretum. Like I say, we only stuck to the smaller trail, but in summer the larger, more outlaying areas would be well worth exploring

Go Walk!