Magnificent Arboretum

Henry John Elwes, FRS (1846-1922) is a name well known to foresters and dendrologists through his work The Trees of Great Britain and Ireland written between 1906 and 1913 with the help of Augustine Henry, the botanist noted for his exploration of the Chinese flora.

During a lifetime of travel Henry Elwes devoted his attention variously to ornithology, lepidoptery, agriculture with particular reference to sheep breeding, horticulture and latterly to forestry, writing an enormous amount of valuable material on each subject. He founded the Quarterly Journal of Forestry in 1907 and was instrumental in making it possible for the Royal Horticultural Society to buy the copyright of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine when it was threatened with closure in 1920.

When he inherited Colesbourne from his father in 1891 he became keenly interested in forestry, eventually planting 700 acres of mixed woodland, much of it experimentally and forced by the agricultural depression gripping England at the time. On his extensive travels he collected many species of trees not previously grown in Great Britain and gradually built up an arboretum of rare trees, added to by purchases from commercial nurseries and other estate owners. The tree collection is principally situated in the meadows below the house and church, including the Ring Meadow (so-named as its hay crop was formerly used to fund the ring of bells in the church), but extends throughout the gardens as well. Many interesting specimens dating to HJE’s time are also to be found throughout the village and further afield on the estate.

In 2022, the Oriental Plane below the church was one of only 70 trees in the whole of the United Kingdom to be chosen as part of a network of trees and Ancient Woodlands celebrating The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Tours to see the tree collection at Colesbourne take place every Autumn.  For 2023 dates and information please click here.

Sunlight through trees

After a break of fifty years the major part of the arboretum was re-catalogued in the 1970s with the kind help of Alan Mitchell who found many rare specimens. In 2018 the arboretum was visited by Owen Johnson of the Tree Register of the British Isles, who measured many of the most notable specimens and found that 11 of our trees were British champions, and no less than 33 are Gloucestershire Champions. They include the tallest fastigiate hornbeam, Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’ at 24 m, a black oak, Quercus velutina (28 m), both in the Ring Meadow, Western Red Cedar, and the beautiful Thuja plicata ‘Semperaurescens’ (23 m) by the lake steps.

The policy is to care for this unique collection of trees and to improve upon it by the addition of new specimens each year. In recent years the arboretum has been augmented by trees acquired by John Grimshaw in the course of his dendrological studies and several specimens were planted in 2010 to mark the retirement of Sir Henry Elwes as Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire. The Arboretum is grazed by sheep, often the traditional local Cotswold breed,  a large sized rare breed sheep with a distinctive long fleece. Henry is a member of the International Dendrology Society and takes a keen interest in new trees and their introduction to Colesbourne.

A new video on the arboretum is available HERE.

Gets better every year- don’t miss the wonderful trees.
Visitor 2015