Bodenham Arboretum History

Bodenham Arboretum History

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Bodenham Arboretum was founded by the visionary farmer David Binnian (1933-2013).  David had been motivated as a child by planting and landscaping, inspired by the special setting of the family home.  He had identified the potential of the site which was originally 127 acres of woodland and rough pasture which he and his wife purchased in 1973.  Today, the site extends to 170 acres containing mature woodland, specimen trees and shrubs and two chains of pools and lakes, integrated within a working farm. The plantings and water, combined, cover about 54 acres.

The vision has taken over 30 years to realise. It started as David’s hobby, just planting a few trees each winter, until it developed into what it is today. It’s now run as a family venture, with the second generation of Binnians fully involved in its planning, development and day-to-day management, and the third generation hovering in the wings. When Bodenham received conditional English Heritage status in 1995, the Binion family realised that this was a major opportunity for the Arboretum to be enjoyed by the public and for it to remain in the family.

Designing the Arboretum

The site is bowl-shaped with an opening on one side, and converting it to its new purpose was relatively easy. Within this bowl there are two miniature valleys which are fed with water from a series of springs. The first task was to decide where the pools were to be created, and then the location of the plantings of additional trees. There are now some fifteen pools with a constant supply of water.

We don’t believe that global warming will cause us any problems, given the nature of the soil and the amount of water that’s stored within the area of the Arboretum. The undulating topography of the land lent itself ideally to integrating it with our farming activities and so you can see the landscape constantly changing from water and woods to pasture grazed by animals.

Creating the Arboretum

The first five years were spent constructing a series of massive earthworks, creating dams to hold back the water and laying out internal roads and drives. For the Big Pool, in front of the Earth Centre, some 12,000 tons of earth were moved in ten days to form the dam. There was also a considerable amount of building work as the old farmhouse broke its back in the 1975/6 drought and had to be demolished. A new farmhouse was built, along with numerous farm buildings and, a few years later, obtained planning permission for their son, James, to build a house adjacent to the pool named after him.

Their second son, sadly, died of leukaemia in 1989 and we planted Ryland’s Grove in his memory. It contains the curved Laburnum Tunnel and a large collection of maples and other interesting trees and shrubs.

Denise Brownridge provides regular updates on activities throughout the site, and will be updating The World of Trees on a monthly basis.

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