Staffordshire's Best Autumn Gardens & Arboretums
Soft mornings wreathed in mist, crisp skies of vivid blue. Autumn often dazzles us with the unique saturation, definition, and atmosphere it brings to landscapes.
There isn’t a better time to visit an arboretum. The trees drip with colour, cloaked in oxblood and honey. The low sunlight casts a halo-ed effect around the individual leaves. It’s a magical time of year, but also a fleeting one.
Although nature is gently slowing its pace, the transition from autumn to winter is often abrupt. One day, gardens are ablaze with flowers and foliage. The next, a seasonal gale has cast their colour to the ground. While Staffordshire’s trees are still at their best, here are 5 gardens and arboretums to visit now.
National Memorial Arboretum
The National Memorial Arboretum is not just a beautiful garden, it is a national site for remembrance. The 150-acre woodland is an evolving, maturing tribute to commemorate those who have lost their lives or suffered in active service.
It is poignant like the poppy fields of France are, but with a softer edge. Built on land that has known peace for centuries, the Arboretum is contemplative rather than bleak. Wander amid displays of seasonal colour, as the trees turn and late flowers bloom. This is somewhere where you can easily appreciate the gentle beauty around you at the same time as you are moved by its human story.
Trentham is your quintessential country estate. 700 acres of sweeping valley, Capability Brown grounds and lake, gardens that take inspiration from across the globe. There is something for everyone, and it even welcomes dogs.
A garden like this is always worth a visit. But with autumn’s palette across it? Just glorious.
Watch the mile long lake fill with the burnished tones of the forested hills above it. Wander the Italian Gardens in its autumn glow, so beautifully restrained after summer’s riot of colour. Silver and gold seed heads mingle among flowers that have been given the ‘Chelsea chop’ in May (so they flower late into the season). Spy the lilac-gold heads of Michaelmas daisies and the pastel softness of Japanese Anemones against rich autumn foliage.
Elsewhere, the grand old trees put on impressive displays. Tulip trees cast giant buttery leaves on the ground, the Liquidambar trees glow with fiery tones, but the Katsura tree is the star of the show.
There are few signifiers of autumn more potent than the sweetness of cinnamon and apple baking in cold air. But the Katsura tree may just top this. As the temperature cools the Katsura releases a rich burnt sugar scent, like candyfloss. If you want to experience this unique event, visit Trentham around the first frosts of the year. In 2018 and 2019 the scent began in late October and lasted for around two weeks.
Biddulph Grange Garden
This Victorian garden was created by James Bateman to house his collection of plants from around the world. Travel with him, from Italy to the pyramids, and even to a Himalayan glen.
The Chinese garden is at its best in the autumn. The olive green pond and striking red bridge and pagoda are framed by fiery reds and deep green trees. Towering evergreens cut striking shapes into the sky, while the acers are ablaze in scarlet and apricot. Wander to the water’s edge to see the colours reflected back at your feet and for the best views of the ancient golden larch, a triumphant plume of ochre.
Elford Walled Garden
Mark harvest season with a wander in Elford Walled Garden. Tucked away in Elford village, it is easy to overlook and certainly on a far smaller scale than the other gardens. But that is part and parcel of its charm.
The garden began in 2009 when local volunteers successfully saved an Edwardian walled garden from development as housing. It’s a proper passion project. Run entirely by volunteers, always open and free to use, with a donation box.
Within its walls you feel like you’ve gone back in time. Volunteers potter in the flowerbeds, bees trail the rose garden, children play on the lawn. There is also a stand selling homegrown produce and plants from the allotments and orchard. Everything is done the old fashioned way, with an honesty box. Handwritten labels on chutney jars, corked elderflower cordial, milk bottles of pressed apple juice.
It has a little bothy onsite, which is always kept open and stocked with the facilities to make a hot cup of tea. There are often homemade cakes too.
Last but definitely not least, Shugborough Hall is a gorgeous country estate with so much to offer at this time of year.
Spend a slow Sunday strolling the river under the fiery warmth of lime, tulip and oak trees, which smoulder against the rich evergreens. If you cross the Blue Bridge you’ll find the Arboretum, which showcases majestic oaks from across the world. Before the leaves fall they turn a great variety of shades, from warm cinnamon and bronze to yellow and even purple.
The gardeners at Shugborough have cut walkways through the Arboretum, creating clever views and different perspectives, as well as seemingly secret spots to explore. Like the outdoor space in the estate, the arboretum welcomes dogs. With plenty of rich sights and smells the woodland trails are a delight for four-legged friends too.
Make The Moat House your base
Want to make a weekend of it? Few hotels are in such a convenient location for exploring the our county as The Moat House. We are within an hour of all these destinations- and often far less.
You’ll want the extra time out of your car for enjoying the hotel. A manor house with its own private lake and seriously delicious food. See if any of our Offers and Breaks take your fancy…