The arboretum at Bowood House has been tended and expanded for 300 years. Visit this beautiful historic estate, between Calne and Chippenham, and you’ll see many of the species of New England, a couple of hours from London.
Stars of the show are undoubtedly the crimson clothing of the red maple and the bright yellow garb of the river birch. Don’t miss the peeling bark of the paper bark birch – used as paper by Native Americans – and the nut-loaded boughs of the shellbark hickories. Committed ‘leaf-peepers’ can pick up a guide to the collection, ‘A Guide to Bowood Trees’ (£3 from the kiosk).
Bowood is an estate that has much to offer, from a sculpture gallery to a children’s adventure playground. But the parkland, landscaped by Capability Brown, and the gardens are the present owners’ real delight.
The Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne have enthusiastically added to the collection of trees, planted a whole menu of organic vegetables and a vast quantity of truly spectacular rhododendrons (if you can’t make it this autumn, May to June is the next highlight, when the two-mile rhododendron walk will be in bloom).
Stay at the lodge
Another of their pet projects is Queenwood Lodge, a restored Georgian house set at the edge of a stream, bordering Bowood’s golf course.
Determined that all parts of the estate should be put to work, Lord Lansdowne decided that Queenwood would make a fine small guesthouse and began refurbishments in 1993. The result is a pocket-sized country-house hotel: open fires, squashy sofas and only four bedrooms.
A superb live-in chef, Chris Dawson, caters for the small groups of friends that stay, drawing on Bowood’s own vegetable gardens for many of his ingredients.
The interiors were restored and redecorated by the Marchioness of Lansdowne, an interior designer, with books and antiques, paintings and furniture poached from the big house.
Queenwood is a perfect place to stay, if you want to turn a great autumn day out into a memorable weekend away.
Bowood House is open to the public until 31 October, 11am to 6pm daily. Visit www.bowood.org, or call 01249 812102. For further details about Queenwood Lodge, call 01249 822228.