The meaning of leaf: an autumnal tour of England’s arboretums

Planted by specimen collectors in the 18th and 19th centuries, arboretums are a ‘living library of trees’ that have become an invaluable public resource for recreation and education

Autumn’s blaze of glory, all flame-red leaves and burnt-gold foliage, offers an opportunity to marvel at the brilliance of the natural world before hunkering down for winter. Though, as nature goes into hibernation, forests, woods, parks and arboretums can often feel alive with walkers, joggers and families exploring them.

The experience of lockdown has changed many people’s relationships with nature and will undoubtedly extend our interaction with the arboreal beyond the traditional leaf-peeping season. Outdoor trends, such as forest bathing, awe-walks and even park strolls, have become a lifeline to many, and now the UK’s most spectacular spaces set aside for trees – arboretums – are seeing record numbers of visitors.

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