THE BESSBOROUGH ARBORETUM
It is not known for certain when the arboretum at Stansted was first started or if, indeed, it was a conscious decision to create one, or if it just developed from the wider formal gardens.
Evidence from the two Parkland Restoration Surveys indicate it is most likely of late Victorian origin around 1850-1880. This was a time when many new trees were being introduced and landowners of the time were very keen to each have their own collection. The species range of the older trees certainly point to this period as often these types of formal planting were predominantly of dark, almost funereal conifers much admired by the Victorians and even the beech in the arboretum at Stansted are the puple leaved variety.
Very little additional planting was carried out in later years with the exception of the magnificent dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), once only known as a fossil but discovered in China in 1941 with seed being sent world-wide in 1948 and a small number of other conifers later on.
The storms of 1987 and 1990 caused extensive damage, blowing down a large number of sizeable trees and damaging the crowns of many others. Since then the arboretum has undergone a restoration programme, the main aim of which has been to increase the number and variety of trees throughout focusing on providing spring flower, Autumn leaf colour and winter bark interest. All new trees and the majority of mature ones are labelled with their common name, scientific name and place of origin to assist the visitor in identifying them.
Regular maintenance is carried out to ensure the younger generation of trees become fine specimens for the future and argoricultural work is carried out to retain the older trees in a safe condition for as long as possible.
The arboretum is rich in wildlife with bats using loose bark and cavities in the older trees as roost sites along with many insects associated with dead wood habitats. Kestrels nest most years and barn owls can sometimes be seen hunting for voles in the twilight.
A pond has been created at the southern end and has been colonised by frogs, newts and several species of dragonflies and damselflies.
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