I love the autumn tree colours. Last October we visited Westonbirt Arboretum but had a disappointing day out as it was incredibly busy. This year we went to Batsford Arboretum instead. It’s much smaller but still has some impressive autumn displays.
Batsford Arboretum is located near Moreton-in-Marsh, a picture perfect Cotswold town with honey coloured buildings. The town has a railway station with frequent connections from Oxford so we used our family railcard and arrived by train.
The Monarch’s Way
Our first port of call was the Tourist Office to get walking directions to the Arboretum. It’s a straightforward and flat route, which takes you along a short stretch of the Monarch’s Way, a 615 mile long distance trail.
The trail follows (approximately) the route that Charles II took on his escape from England. It took Charles 6 weeks to flee but fortunately we only had to walk for 30 minutes to reach our destination. The track is well signposted but the fields were pretty muddy from recent rain.
Cotswold Falconry Centre
Upon arrival the kids spotted signs for the Cotswold Falconry Centre, which is next to the Arboretum. I hadn’t planned to visit this as I thought it would be too much to squeeze into one day, but they were very persuasive. Fifteen minutes later we were seated and waiting for the flying display to start.
I’m not a great fan of falconry as I prefer to see birds flying free in the wild. However I was very impressed with the Falconry Centre. The birds were obviously well cared for and the falconer keen to stress they could fly off at any time if they wished.
We watched a 1 hour flying display during which 4 different birds were flown. These included Scruffy, a hawk, bred especially for falconry. The falconer ensured that each bird flew for some time before rewarding them with a dead chick. The highlight of the display came from another bird, Lulu. She demonstrated amazing braking powers after descending from a great height.
After the display we looked briefly at some of the other birds. One of the Hooded Vultures had laid an egg on the morning of our visit, which will hopefully result in a chick in a couple of months. Visitors are welcome to attend additional flying displays (which use different birds) and you can also leave and re-enter throughout the day.
Our next stop was for lunch, which we ate in the Batsford Arboretum cafe. It was on the expensive side, but the food was freshly prepared and tasty. In addition to the indoor cafe there was also an outdoor BBQ burger and sausage stand, which the kids really enjoyed.
Most of the visitors to the Arboretum were older people, although there were a few families too. Despite it being half term there were no additional family activities, but we did pick up a children’s trail for 25p. This included a map of the Arboretum along with 10 questions to answer. The first question had the kids checking out this waterfall to see what was hidden behind.
The trail was good fun but we did find the map a little confusing as some of the statues were shown in the wrong places. For once, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my map reading at fault!
Despite its modest size the Arboretum still has plenty to see. As well as the trees there are a number of statues and other oddities with an Eastern theme. The kids were intrigued by the hermit’s cave and enjoyed posing next to the Buddha statue.
Batsford Park has an interesting history and was home to the Mitford sisters in World War I. The family led colourful lives which you can read about on the Arboretum website, along with the history of the Arboretum. The house is now privately owned and not open to visitors although it is visible from the grounds.
We spent around 2 hours at the Arboretum. I preferred it to the madness of Westonbirt last autumn although it is nowhere near as big, and the trees are generally individual specimens (there is no equivalent of the Acer glade). I’d definitely visit both attractions again, perhaps during spring when the Arboretum puts on a different display.
- Batsford Arboretum is open every day except Christmas Day. The Arboretum does have some hilly sections which may make it more harder for visitors who have difficulty walking, but the visitor centre is fully accessible.
- If you’re visiting specifically to see the autumn colours check the Arboretum website before you set out as it has a handy leaf colour indicator on the home page.
- Cotswold Falconry Centre is closed for winter between mid-November and early February, but then open daily for the rest of the year.