Harcourt Arboretum, a 15-minute drive from Oxford, has been part of the Botanic Garden since 1963 and contains some of the finest conifer collections in the UK, set within 130 acres of historic Picturesque landscape. Together, Harcourt Arboretum and the Oxford Botanic Garden are an incredible resource for research, education, conservation and inspiration for a new generation of botanists.
In 1835, Archbishop Vernon Harcourt commissioned artist and landscape designer William Gilpin to create an eight-acre pinetum and Serpentine Ride in the parkland next to Nuneham House, where the Harcourt family lived. In 1947, the University of Oxford purchased the entire estate and created an arboretum that has grown over time to 130 acres. It was acquired by the Botanic Garden in 1963. It was designed as a place of beauty, to preserve the collection of North American conifers, and to grow trees for which the Oxford Botanic Garden was too small or the soil too alkaline.
Experts travel the globe to find rare trees, collect their seeds and grow them in the Arboretum, ensuring the species survive outside their threatened native habitats. Today, visitors can discover trees from around the world growing alongside tranquil British woodland and open meadows. This includes some of the oldest redwoods in the UK. Seasonal highlights include wildflower meadows, rhododendrons and bluebell woods.
The Original Pinetum, Serpentine Ride and Glades
This is the oldest part of the Arboretum, laid out by William Gilpin in the 1830s. Between May and August, this area is filled with a spectrum of dramatic colours while our rhododendrons and azaleas are in flower. This is also a favourite spot for small birds and dragonflies.
Bluebell Wood and Lime Wood showcase the different types of native woodland we have in the UK. Visit between late April and mid-May to see (and smell) the bluebells, or enjoy the peaceful and cooling shade of the woodland on a hot summer's day. There are three main areas of woodland at the Arboretum: a working coppice woodland of birch, hazel and sweet chestnut; a mature woodland of oak, lime and ash; and a recently established woodland of almost 14,000 native trees that were planted in early 2008, called Palmer's Leys.
Parkland and Wildflower Meadows
The 67 acres of parkland and wildflower meadows provide a glorious open space for our visitors to explore. From early May there are many delicate wildflowers to be found among the grasses - meadows like these are important for sustaining populations of native UK wildflowers, some of which are now vulnerable or threatened. Look out for special gems such as pyramidal orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis) and the distinctive ragged robin (Lychnis flos-coculi) which flower in May and June.
The Acer Glade and Coppice
The Acer Glade provides interest at any time of the year - daffodils in spring, spectacular acer leaves in summer, and witch hazel in winter. Its peak season is autumn, when it blazes with vivid colours.
Harcourt Arboretum Garden Opening hours
December to February Open Monday to Friday 10:00 am until 4:00 pm Last admission 3:15 pm (Closed at weekends) Please note: The Arboretum will be closed from 22nd December to 1st January inclusive.
March Monday to Saturday 10:00 am until 4:00 pm Last admission 3:15 pm Sundays and Bank Holidays 11:00 am until 4:00 pm
April to October Monday to Saturday 10:00 am until 5:00 pm Last admission 4:15 pm Sundays and Bank Holidays 11:00 am until 5:00 pm Last admission 4:15 pm
November Monday to Saturday 10:00 am until 4:00 pm Last admission 3:15 pm Sundays and Bank Holidays 11:00 am until 4:00 pm
Access and facilities
As there are no refreshment facilities available at the Arboretum, visitors are very welcome to bring a picnic. Toilet facilities, including an adapted toilet and baby changing, are available in the Lodge during opening hours. Dogs are not permitted at the Arboretum, except for registered assistance dogs.
Bu bus The Arboretum is served by the X38/X39/X40 route from Oxford to Wallingford and Reading. If travelling from Oxford, your journey from the bus stop on St Aldates should take around 10 minutes. Alight at the second bus stop in Nuneham Courtenay and cross the road to enter via the pedestrian entrance at the bottom of our car park. If travelling from Reading, your journey should take around one hour. Alight at the first bus stop in Nuneham Courtenay and enter through the pedestrian entrance at the bottom of our car park. For more details, please see the Thames Travel website.
By car From Oxford: On the Eastern Bypass, head to Heyford Hill Roundabout, and take the exit for the A4074 to Reading. The Arboretum is on the right, just as you leave the village of Nuneham Courtenay. From Reading: Follow the A4074 to Oxfordshire. The Arboretum is on the left, just as you enter the village of Nuneham Courtenay.
By bicycle Cyclists coming from Oxford are recommended to travel via Cowley Road, Hollow Way and the B480, then through Toot Baldon and Marsh Baldon to avoid busy roads.
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