Winkworth Arboretum: Walks, wilderness, wetlands and tree magic in Godalming, Surrey

The importance of trees to the planet and one’s life can not be underestimated – they reduce CO2, can reduce flooding, offer homes and spaces some much needed protection, clean the air for everyone, and can reduce stress.

One man who passionately valued trees and honoured their presence was Dr Wilfrid Fox, a physician turned horticulturalist, who not only pioneered a movement, Roads Beautifying Association, to help improve public environment by planting trees, but also left his home and legacy, Winkworth Arboretum, for future generations to enjoy and embrace the magic and magnificence of trees.

Winkworth Arboretum – set in some 46 hectares of land in Goldalming, Surrey – was founded by Dr Wilfrid Fox in 1937. Living during a time of war and with a strong affinity to trees, Dr Wilfrid Fox viewed tree planting as “a way of mending a damaged world and improving lives”.

Part of Dr Wilfrid’s legacy, the hillside arboretum now has an abundant collection of more than 1,000 different species of shrubs and trees, many of them rare. A beautiful stretch of nature, that has been lovingly cherished and nurtured, Winkworth Arboretum is like walking in Dr Wilfrid Fox’s own secret garden, admiring his personal plant and tree collection.

Now managed by the National Trust, Winkworth Arboretum, is a perfect place for all generations to come and enjoy nature in its most pristine and blooming self. The land itself has many different natural beauties to discover in the form of a circular walk across wetlands seeming with wildlife; a children’s woodland play area nestled among birch trees; a serene garden lake which can be viewed from many vantage points including a traditional wooden boathouse; and uphill and downhill panoramic views.

A series of walks, for different abilities, throughout the expanse of land offers visitors a chance to explore the arboretum in its full regalia.

There is no “right time”, as it were, to visit, as Winkworth Arboretum is pretty much delightful all year round. During a summer of full-on sunshine and heat, the time I visited, the heavens decided to open and provide the arboretum and surrounding area with some liquid nourishment. Albeit momentarily, the rainfall provided me with the opportunity to seek shelter under one of the many grand trees, and on another downpour, in the boathouse – an old wooden hut with a viewing platform of the lake, which was such a simple yet awe-inspiring pleasure. Had I spent longer here, I would probably have been inspired to sit down with a notebook on the bench of the boathouse’s viewing deck and simply write to my heart’s content.

Winkworth Arboretum is well-known for its Autumn colours – the russet reds and the golden yellows. I was fortunate to catch a glimpse of this warming colour palette on the other side the lake whilst on my walkabout, as a series of short trees with the russet red colour stood proudly. During the Autumn, the colours from the Japanese, American and Norwegian maples are said to be a real treat. In spring there are drifts of blueberry, magnolia and cherry blossom. And the azalea walk, which is awash with colour at the end of April, leads to the boathouse which overlooks the lake.

My time spent at Winkworth Arboretum was a delight. Keen to explore as much as possible with a full appreciation of the very ground I was walking on, I walked at a leisurely space stopping to take a closer view of the parts of the arboretum that resonated with me and in the case of one tree in particular, commanded my attention.

On my trek towards the lake, I noticed a row of elegant trees which with its pointed needles looked like a species of pine from afar. As I walked up to one of these trees, intrigued by its energy, essence and presence, I noticed a sign on the tree that read “Blue Atlas Cedar”. A cedar tree native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, I was instantly drawn to the blueish hue of the tree and its bark, and pine-like needles. Most certainly an intuitive sign and symbol for me, I have been using Cedarwood Atlas essential oil daily in an aroma diffuser at home for weeks now.

A yellow, resinous essential oil with a soft, woody and fresh scent and an undertone of Sandalwood, Cedarwood Atlas is used to promote spirituality,to balance and to calm, and for protection, hence a happy household all around in my manor. I gave thanks to this beautiful and majestic tree for its blessings and its presence as I honoured our connection.

Soon after, I decided to continue my walk – turning my back on the Blue Atlas Cedar and facing the direction of the lake. However, the Blue Atlas Cedar quickly assured me that “we were not done yet”. Forgetting that my choice of up-do was adding a considerable amount of height – four inches or so – to my already above average height, my hair and Blue Atlas Cedar became locked in an embrace or some kind of romance (or let’s just say t-romance in this case).

The beautiful silvery blue-green needles of the Blue Atlas Cedar did not want to let go of me, and neither my inner being was ready to let go of it at this point. Releasing my own tree-like hair-do, or unicorn horn depending on which way you look at it, from the magnetic hold of the Blue Atlas Cedar, I knelt down and sat for a moment under the protection of this high vibrational tree. During that time, I had a strong sense that the tree was offering me a branch, quite literally, and so I picked up one of the short fallen branches and gave gratitude to the tree for its tremendous insight.

This for me was the most special moment of many a beautiful moment during my visit to Winkworth Arboretum. In fact that branch of the Blue Atlas Cedar lovingly sits close by as I write this article, offering its magical services should I require its assistance. And that’s the beauty of Winkworth Arboretum, whichever tree most resonates for you, you will most likely find each other at Winkworth Arboretum.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

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