Harcourt Arboretum

Set within 130 acres of Picturesque landscape, Harcourt Arboretum has the best collection of trees in Oxfordshire including some of the world’s rarest species.

Wander along the Serpentine Ride with its collection of non-native flowering trees and shrubs including magnolias and rare conifers.

Explore Palmer’s Leys with over 13,000 native tree species including oak, lime, hornbeam and beech. There’s also an area of species-rich meadow land. A quiet area, you may see hares, deer and stoats.

Bluebell Wood is a mature oak woodland which is carpeted with native English bluebells from late April until mid-May.

Discover the Coppice and Woodland Barn where you will see examples of woodland management and crafts.

The Wildflower Meadows with its diversity of wildlife is a glorious open space for visitors to explore. 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.

Other areas to explore are the Lime Wood and the Acer Glade

Harcourt Arboretum was acquired by the University of Oxford in 1947 and has been part of Oxford Botanic Garden since 1963.

Key Information

Wheelchair access: Yes, there are paths throughout the Arboretum. Many of these may be unsuitable for wheelchair users, pushchairs or people with mobility impairments. None of the paths have steps, but there are some steep slopes and uneven surfaces. Detailed access guide here.

Please note that the cafe is seasonal and only open at weekends from Spring until Autumn.

Guided tours of the Arboretum are available

Groups: Must be booked

Please click here for Directions, opening times and admission prices 

And to discover What’s On at Harcourt Arboretum.

Partner site: Oxford Botanic Garden, Rose Lane, Oxford, OX1 4AZ

 

WHAT TO SEE

IN SPRING:

Daffodils and other spring bulbs signal the start of spring at the Arboretum. Look out for other spring plants like crocus, scilla (which look a little like bluebells, and can be found at the base of some of the larger oaks), and lesser celandine.

When the Daphne bholua ‘Darjeeling’ flowers in early spring you’ll smell it before you see it. It releases a divine scent attracting visitors down the Serpentine Ride. In the Magnolia Glade gentle whites, creams and pinks are joined by a delicate sweet aroma from some of the magnolias, including Magnolia × loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’.

In the coppice visitors should make the most of the opportunity for a closer look at the method used to lay a hedge before leaves cover the hard work of the arborists, volunteers, and course attendees.

Late spring is a glorious time to visit the Arboretum. The collection of azaleas and rhododendrons flower in a stunning range of colours, including Rhododendron ‘Jean Marie de Montague’, Azalea ‘Marconi’, R. ‘Goldinetta’, and R. ‘Seven Stars’. Also along the Serpentine Ride are a number of delicate flowering trees such as Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree) and Halesia carolina (Snowdrop Tree).

By the end of April visitors will be able to see the bluebells beginning to flower and open in Bluebell Wood. While you are walking look out for busy wildlife preparing for the season ahead. Many different types of bird will be found on the bird feeders near the ticket office. Tits, nuthatches and finches are all busy preparing their nests and raising chicks. The peacocks are calling and displaying magnificently, while the peahens take it easy. Look upwards to catch a sight of a circling red kite or buzzard.

 

IN SUMMER:

The Bluebell Wood and Lime Wood are wonderful, cool and shady spots for walking in the summer. Bluebell Wood, in particular, is barely recognisable to those visitors who saw the carpet of bluebells in the spring: in the summer months a thick maze of bracken dominates the space. Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is a pioneering plant that can thrive in a wide variety of conditions and has to be managed in many places where it out-competes other species. Historically it has been harvested as bedding, and even fodder, for livestock. It has been used as mulch to protect other plants or suppress weeds, and even as an alternative to peat (but it can also be toxic, so take care).

When you step out of the native woodland into the Wildflower Meadows or the Acer Glade, take a moment to enjoy the fascinating shapes of the many seed pods that appear. In the meadow, vetch, yellow-rattle and sorrel all clatter and jangle with seeds. In the Acer Glade, Acer palmatum ssp. Matsumuae, Acer palmatum var. Heptalobum ‘Osakazuki’ and Acer tataricum ssp. ginnala are covered with colourful seeds.

August is the perfect month for a stroll along the Serpentine Ride. Bring a picnic and enjoy it among the shade of some of our tallest and most exotic trees. Marvel at the strange fruits, such as Magnolia campbellii ssp. mollicomata, Styrax hemsleyanus (Hemsley Snowball) and Magnolia tripetala in the Magnolia Glade. Along the Serpentine Ride the rhododendrons, Arbutus unedo (Killarney Strawberry Tree), Cornus mas and Halesia carolina ‘Rosea’ (Snowdrop Tree), all have interesting fruits and seed pods and the whole area is teeming with dragonflies.

 

IN AUTUMN:

The Arboretum glows with colour through autumn. The Acer Glade is awash with vivid reds and rich golds, in Lime Wood the leaves create a rich yellow canopy and flutter gently to the ground, while in Bluebell Wood the bracken is a rich copper. Along Holly Walk you’ll find bright berries amongst the greenery.

The Arboretum is home to a number of dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) which during the autumn months glow with a vivid brick-red colour, resembling a flaming torch. Known only in fossil records until the 1940s, the dawn redwood is often described as a ‘living fossil’. It is the only living member of the genus Metasequoia, although the fossil record shows that it was distributed through North America and Eurasia up to 100 million years ago. Today, the dawn redwood is restricted to the border of two Chinese provinces and Chongqing in Central China, but it is a popular addition to many parks and gardens in Europe and America. Despite this, it is still internationally recognised as endangered.

Keep an eye out for our stately oaks which turn a golden brown, and other eye-catching colour from trees such as Taxodium distichum (swamp cypress) and Larix x eurolepis (hybrid larch). Palmer’s Leys is also worth visiting, the native planting shines a merry yellow on sunny days.

 

IN WINTER:

There is always plenty of wildlife to be seen at the Arboretum and winter is no exception. Keep an eye out for deer, hares, birds of prey, badgers and foxes. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a snowy day when the woodlands are at their most enchanting you may even spot some animal tracks.

The Acer Glade is home to a number of different varieties of witch hazel, including Hamamelis mollis, Hamamelis x intermedia (‘Primavera’), and Hamamelis x intermedia (‘Pallida’). The blossoms of these seasonal beauties are highly fragrant and able to withstand the cold. By appearing at a time when few other plants are flowering they can avoid competition for pollinators.

Dotted around the tree tops you may spot some Viscum album commonly known as mistletoe. Mistletoe is a hemiparasitic plant. Individual plants festoon the branches of trees taking nutrients and water from their host in order to survive.

Wonder down Holly Walk to find common holly, Ilex aquifolium. Holly is dioecious, meaning there are ‘female’ and ‘male’ plants and only female holly trees holly trees develop red berries.

 

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INFORMATION

Address: Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX44 9PX View map Phone: 01865 610 300 Length of visit: 2-3 hours
Dog friendly: No
Cafe: No
Car park: Yes
House open: No
House open - occasionally: No
Family friendly: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Wheelchair - partly: Yes

For information on opening times and to buy tickets: Click here

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