The borough of Walsall gets a lot of poor press, often unfairly in my view. It has a diverse population, generally living comfortably together. Unfortunately there are also high levels of poverty and health, social and economic issues to contend with. Recently, the town centre appears to have entered a slow decline, with the closure of M&S in August being a significant blow.
However, I want to focus on one of the great aspects of the borough. Walsall’s parks and gardens are a pleasure, none more so than the historic Arboretum. I’m writing this blog as a positive reminder of the regeneration that is possible with conviction, teamwork and hard graft. Walsall Arboretum is a fabulous park (with gardens), located just outside the centre of town. A regular visitor since a child, nowadays it’s where we walk with Ollie, our mini schnauzer. It gives us a great deal of enjoyment – we meet other dog walkers, amble along tree lined avenues, admire the gardens and wind our way round the extension, where an ex-nine hole golf course is being slowly grown into a country park and is full of young trees and meadow like expanses. Over the last 10 years, a significant Heritage lottery fund restoration project has been in full flow in the Arboretum, with buildings and grounds seeing the benefits, including a new visitor centre with a cafe, which is a great addition. The plans made in the early noughties, aimed at providing year round interest, are most definitely coming to fruition.
The arboretum and its gardens and recreation areas date back to the 1870s, having been originally developed around two flooded limestone quarries after they had closed. There is so much to say about the Arboretum’s history, however, as this is a gardening blog I’m going to stick to the present – but for those of you who are interested, this link provides a timeline to the past.
The Arboretum provides interest all year round, – it really is a joy, with each season bringing a fresh palette of colour:
Spring in Walsall Arboretum
Summer in the Gardens
Of course, it is an Arboretum and there are hundreds of trees providing a backbone to the park. I’ve a few personal favourites, this is one of two fabulous Indian Bean Trees (catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea‘):
I love the graceful movement of poplars, avenues have been planted at various points in the Arboretum, with this row on the walkway between the two Lakes:
The birches in the woodland wildlife garden are the icing on the cake in this special place:
As you can see, the bark on this young birch is amazing, although I’m disappointed to say that the patina is hard to recreate in an image:
For Autumn colour this area, overlooking the Victorian Bandstand, is a real treat.
I’m pretty good at spotting birds whilst out walking, but spectacularly bad at catching them on camera. As well as an abundance of blackbirds, robins, tits, chaffinches and thrushes, seen mainly along the stream’s pathway, this year I’ve seen a kingfisher, treecreepers, a woodpecker and a little egret. I have managed to get pictures (albeit 2 of them on my phone, sorry they’re so poor!) of these 3 birds; a sparrow hawk, a buzzard and most surprisingly a green parrot! The latter are a recent invasion – they are plentiful – they’re well known in Richmond Park in London, I have no idea how they have found their way to Walsall Arboretum.
Finally, I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief excursion around Walsall Arboretum, a place where so many people from the borough find a time to relax and enjoy the surroundings. I’m going to leave you with this short poem written by Peadar O’Donoghue. It’s been beautifully engraved and laid in the rock garden for all to see and ponder over: