This simple gate is the entrance to an impressive arboretum, open this Sunday 22nd October 10am – 3pm it is situated at Framingham Earl just 3 miles south east of Norwich.
There are 14 hectares (34 acres) here of a great collection of trees originally laid out by Dr Edward Rigby a physician and surgeon in Norwich. He was also a great lover of the natural world and having bought the estate in 1786 he began planting in about 1805. Originally called Framingham Hall the name was changed to The Chase when Geoffrey Colman acquired the property in 1929.
The house was demolished in 1973 a few years after the death of Colman’s widow Lettice. The Beech Walk remains as a memory of the grand house it once was.
Framingham Hall is shown on Faden’s map of Norfolk 1797 and this more recent OS map outlines the demolished hall and shows the line of the Beech Walk centred on the old site.
It is that time of year when here and there are signs of autumn with the leaves beginning to turn, perhaps on one specimen like this nissa sylvatica ‘Tupelo’.
or an entire tree catching the light in the dark green canopy.
It is not a neglected wood, young trees have been recently planted and benches are placed in strategic places such as at the end of this ride,
or in front of the remains of the old balustrade on the North side of the house.
This old photograph shows the South side.
Those elegant ladies might have wandered through growing shrubs and sat in this graceful rotunda now slightly hidden from view.
In the eighteenth century this classical statue would have symbolised the cultured taste and status of the owner. His presence remains majestic amongst the giants:
such as the Cedars of Lebanon cedrus lebani which are quite magnificent,
the large tight fat cones are firmly attached to the graceful arching branches,
unlike these tiny ones on a fir which drop so freely.
A fallen branch snakes its way up the hill,
where on a mound surrounded by sycamore stands a gazebo. Built in 2000 from English oak it celebrates the one hundredth birthday of H.M The Queen Mother, the creation of the arboretum and the start of the new millennium.
And it is from here that you have a glorious view, apparently out towards the sea at Great Yarmouth in the faraway distance; it is the spire of St Andrew’s Church Framingham Pigot, we can see today peeping above the trees.
We have driven in from the South Lodge so decide to walk on further down the drive towards the North Lodge catching sunlight through the raised tree canopy,
and admiring the ever-changing shapes of nature.
In a wide clearing a plaque informs us that these American species trees were presented to Sir Timothy Colman KG by the governors and members of the Memorial Trust of the 2nd Air Division USAAF upon his retirement in November 2004 as Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk in appreciation of his support and encouragement over the years.
Particularly golden and, ironically because of its name, is the Quercus Velutina ‘Black Oak’.
From here we make our way to the lakes passing through the tumbled-down old rockery,
now overgrown, it is the bright stems of bamboo that have become a focal point.
A stately urn remains amongst the shrubs and trees,
and the end of the wall presents a reminder of past times.
I am with a tree expert and we delight in a species he does not know, an Indian Horse Chestnut Aesculus Indica. Related to the more common Horse Chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum it was introduced to Britain in 1851 by Colonel Henry Bunbury (a friend of Sir Joseph Hooker, Director of Kew), who planted seeds in his family’s garden at Barton Hall in Suffolk.
We have come to photograph the arboretum today for the Norfolk Booklet and I admire the skill of our NGS photographer who takes such care and is clearly a professional,
whilst I am more hurried and happy to snap!
It is a series of lakes, and this cygnet appears alone on this lowest one. Dwarfed by a the bronzed Swamp Cypress taxodium distichum which grows up ram rod-straight from one of the little circular islands.
All around, the blue sky and autumn colours are reflected on the still water.
We have wandered around for at least a couple of hours and it is time to ascend back up the South-facing hill. Not a flat part of Norfolk, it is a beautiful landscape and this very private arboretum, a rare Sunday treat, is surely one not to be missed. The Barn is the final garden to be open for Norfolk NGS 2017 and ends a fantastic season in this lovely county.