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The Accidental Arboretum

Chesham is full of surprises! It has an arboretum. It is planted on land sloping down to Pednor Bottom and belongs to Merelene Davis who bought the plot, called Little Friars, in the early 1990s when the land stopped being farmed.

She started to plant Christmas trees for sale which are now available to be chosen from September and tagged in situ by the buyers. Some families come on a warm autumn day for the tagging, armed with a picnic to enjoy among the trees. Then the Christmas trees are cut to order in December, for collection.

Merelene in her arboretum - photo by Anne Crabbe

While the Christmas trees were growing, Merelene planted a hedge of 33 native trees. A passionate tree enthusiast she often could not resist rare or unusual trees she came across in nurseries or that friends gave her. With little space in the family garden, she frequently 'popped these in' at Little Friars in a space where a Christmas tree had been sold. This added to the biodiversity so helping to control pests and attract birds like firecrests.  Then one day she suddenly realised that, with more than 100 different specimens planted, an arboretum had been created!

There are wonderful trees from all over the world such as the Zelkova from Japan and a Stone Pine from the Mediterranean. There is an Amur Cork tree, a Phellodendron which comes from between Russia and Korea and is used in Chinese medicine, and a variegated Incense Cedar tree from high in the Sierra Mountains of California. Tree courses have already been run for groups like the Bucks Tree Club but the unique habitat provides interests for other types of natural history groups too.

With help from volunteers, guided tours of Little Friars arboretum are offered to groups for charity.

Getting There

Visits to Little Friars are by appointment only. Please email mandad@hotmail.co.uk to arrange a visit.


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