Personal Welcome from David Binnian (1933 – 2013)
It is a great pleasure to be able to introduce the delights of Bodenharn Arboretum to you through this website. I hope you enjoy your visit. There’s a lot I can tell you about this unique site. Bodenham is an area of outstanding landscape beauty and interest. Its 170 acres contain mature woodland, specimen trees and shrubs and two chains of pools and lakes, integrated within a working farm. The plantings and water, combined, cover about 54 acres.
We began the project in 1973 when my wife, Jennifer, and I bought the land with a vision which has taken over 30 years to realise. It started as my hobby, just planting a few trees each winter, until it developed into what it is today. It’s now run as a family venture, with the second generation of Binnians fully involved in its planning, development and day-to-day management, and the third generation hovering in the wings. When Bodenham received conditional English Heritage status in 1995 we realised that this was a major opportunity for the Arboretum to be enjoyed by the public and for it to remain in the family.
When we first bought the property it comprised 127 acres of woodland and rough pasture grazed by sheep. Our family had lived half a mile away for the previous sixteen years and saw it sold twice before we took the opportunity to buy it ourselves, because of its potential for conversion to an arboretum, combined with a working farm. Ever since I was a small boy I had been keen on planting and landscaping and was motivated, I think, by my parents who had a beautiful home and a large garden with fine specimen trees. Although I read forestry at College much of my knowledge has been acquired quietly, over the years.
Designing the Arboretum
The site is bowl-shaped with an opening on one side, and converting it to its new purpose was relatively easy. Within this bowl there are two miniature valleys which are fed with water from a series of springs. The first task was to decide where the pools were to be created, and then the location of the plantings of additional trees. There are now some fifteen pools with a constant supply of water.
We don’t believe that global warming will cause us any problems, given the nature of the soil and the amount of water that’s stored within the area of the Arboretum. The undulating topography of the land lent itself ideally to integrating it with our farming activities and so you can see the landscape constantly changing from water and woods to pasture grazed by animals.
Creating the Arboretum
The first five years were spent constructing a series of massive earthworks, creating dams to hold back the water and laying out internal roads and drives. For the Big Pool, in front of the Earth Centre, some 12,000 tons of earth were moved in ten days to form the dam. We also had to carry out a considerable amount of building as our old farmhouse broke its back in the 1975/6 drought and had to be demolished. We built a new farmhouse, erected numerous farm buildings and, a few years later, obtained planning permission for our son, James, to build a house adjacent to the pool named after him.
Our second son, sadly, died of leukaemia in 1989 and we planted Ryland’s Grove in his memory. It contains the curved Laburnum Tunnel and a large collection of maples and other interesting trees and shrubs.
A grove of Californian Redwoods were planted in the Poplar Dingle in 1982 to celebrate our daughter Rosanna’s 18th birthday. She now lives with her family in Sussex and continues the family interest in trees in her own garden.