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Alice Holt Arboretum

The Alice Holt Arboretum Restoration Project

The Alice Holt Arboretum Restoration Project (AHARP) is a partnership between the Forestry Commission and the Alice Holt Community Forum (AHCF) with the following aims:

  • to restore the arboretum to its status as a tree collection of national importance, whilst recognising the sensitive nature of the site;
  • to restore and enhance biodiversity within the footprint of the arboretum; 
  • to promote the quiet enjoyment by the public of the site’s arboretum interest and ecological value  and, for this purpose, to improve accessibility around the site, but at the same time  to conserve the intimate scale and wild  character of the site;
  • to conserve, display and interpret the best examples of the existing specimen trees;
  • to plant new trees to increase the diversity and value of the collection for science, recreation and education and to enhance the ecological value of the site;
  • to identify specific conservation projects which can be implemented using volunteer effort and external financial support, thereby fostering a sense of shared responsibility for our natural environment; ·
  • to identify an appropriate monitoring regime to record and help interpret ecological change over time;
  • to improve ecological connectivity between the Arboretum and biodiversity hotspots within the wider landscape of Lodge Inclosure e.g. Bentley Station Meadow SSSI;
  • to provide an educational resource for all ages.

The Arboretum

The Arboretum stands within a sloping site that contains a rich variety of wildlife habitats and affords fine views over the Wey valley to the north. It is located within Lodge Inclosure, close to the site of the kennels where the last of the Lieutenants of Alice Holt, Lord Stawell, kept his hunting hounds at the end of the 18th century.

Dating from the 1950's, the Arboretum was planted by scientists based at Alice Holt Lodge Research Station in order to provide a tree species collection from around the world for the purposes of selective breeding and research. The Alice Holt Arboretum is important for its collection of conifers, including several species that are scare or endangered in their wild habitats. Around half of the world's conifer species (around 500) are under threat. 

A Coast Redwood grove planted in the 1950's, where the trees have already reached 20 metres high, will in time become a most impressive collection of giant trees, growing to enormous size and living for hundreds of years. 

There are several scientifically important plantings, such as the "Thuja Block" where each tree is a clone from a known parent, thus preserving a unique gene bank of individual trees each with its own fractionally different characteristics.

There are important collections of broad leaved trees, including Italian alders and various species of southern hemisphere beech (Nothofagus), and many fine oaks, sweet chestnuts and ancient yews. More information about the trees can be found in a report compiled by staff at Forest Research.

The Arboretum was once a popular area for quiet recreation and enjoyment of the trees. Originally each species was labelled enabling the visitor to learn about the different species. There was an all-ability path, a small picnic area and a number of quiet footpaths leading to viewpoints where benches were provided.

Anti-social activity led to closure of the nearby car park in the 1980's and the Arboretum fell into neglect. Paths degenerated, with the all ability path being lost and no longer suitable for wheelchair users or pushchairs. The benches and picnic tables decayed or suffered vandalism and many of the footpaths became flooded. Several of the viewpoints were lost as they became overgrown with tangled scrub and the labels were gradually lost from the trees.

The Arboretum Restoration Project aims to reverse the decline. Since the beginning of 2011, with the help of a band of volunteers, paths have been scraped, scrub cleared and wildlife habitats created. The Forestry Commission has undertaken a significant amount of thinning, which has opened up the arboretum to more light and enhanced the setting of the specimen trees. The Community Forum, working with Binsted Parish Council, has successfully raised funds from Hampshire County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority to enable the all ability path to be fully restored. All specimen trees have been individually labelled and logged on a national database by staff at Forest Research using GIS mapping.

As well as trees the area is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including ancient woodland plants such as herb paris, rare butterflies such as the purple emperor and white admiral, nightjars, dormice (a European Protected Species), badgers, rare bats and roe deer. 50 dormice boxes were installed in 2012 by the volunteers.

The Arboretum Restoration Volunteers

The volunteers meet on the third Sunday of each month from 10am to 1pm. Volunteering is open to all and no special skills are required. Tools are provided. They meet at the Forestry Commission car park off Gravel Hill Road near Alice Holt Lodge.

For information about volunteering, contact Robert Simpson at rf.simpson@talk21.com

Arboretum Tree Trail

Autumn MaplesA new tree trail at the Alice Holt Arboretum is now open. The arboretum can be accessed by foot from Bentley Station (along the Shipwrights Way long distance footpath) or via the Forestry Commission car park on Gravel Hill Road near the Alice Holt Research Station.

Last updated: 7th March 2016

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.