Thenford Arboretum and Gardens
Introduction to garden, self-exploration and lunch included.
This impressive and fascinating garden has been created by Lord and Lady Heseltine.
Three quarters of the way through the twentieth century the woodland surrounding Thenford House had seen little attention since Queen Victoria’s day.
The garden immediately around the house had, however, been cared for. The two-acre walled garden had continued in active use until after the Second World War, although by the 1970s its use was largely given over to the rearing of lambs secure from the foxes for which the Bicester Hunt was famed.
Over the next 25 years their priority consisted in the restoration of 40 acres of woodland. The debris was cleared, rotten or fallen trees replaced. The walled garden brought back to its former use. The medieval fish ponds – much altered in the nineteenth century – dredged and the water flow restored. The two-acre lake had to be cleared of three metres of silt and its stone retaining wall rebuilt.
In order to help with the replanting programme, the Heseltines sought advice from leading horticulturalists of the time. These included Lanning Roper, Sir Harold Hillier, Roy Lancaster and Keith Rushforth. They also received gifts to enhance the collection from many distinguished tree lovers.
The eighteenth-century woodland had been grown for its commercial value. The Heseltines widened the choice of trees and shrubs and thus laid the foundations of the present collection.
It was around the turn of the century and free of the responsibilities of the government that the Heseltines decided to create a range of ornamental features and seriously enhance the quality of the collection.
The arboretum, now spread out over seventy acres, features a collection of more than four thousand different trees and shrubs. Together with extensive herbaceous borders, water gardens, an alpine trough garden, a sculpture garden, a rose garden and a rill.