We take a walk through Lincoln's 'first public park'. 

LINCOLN Arboretum, which opened in 1872, is seen as being Lincoln’s first public park. Designed by Edward Milner for the sum of £500, it was formally opened to a crowd of 25,000 people, with a great fanfare. A number of different tree species were planted and two ponds constructed as part of the design by Milner. The arboretum today covers 22 acres, having been extended since it was first opened.

A lodge was built at the west entrance, and a tearoom, both designed by Milner, and up until the end of the 1940s there was a glass pavilion as well. Sadly, this was demolished after years of decay and general vandalism. The fact it had suffered severe damage during World War II also probably did not help. 

Forestry Journal: The island fountain in a bamboo and ornamental grass setting with a wonderful backdrop of trees.The island fountain in a bamboo and ornamental grass setting with a wonderful backdrop of trees.

As the years passed, other monuments were constructed in the arboretum, including, in 1872, a Coade stone lion, donated by a successful Lincoln businessman. In 1884, a bandstand was built, as the arboretum had become a popular place for the citizens of Lincoln to attend brass band concerts. Around the same time, a cast-iron shelter was erected. All of these, along with the tearoom, west lodge and telephone kiosk, are Grade II listed buildings today.

In the early 2000s, the arboretum underwent a multi-million-pound series of restoration works with the key focus being to bring it back more to its original state of the 19th century. Visitor facilities were upgraded, the bandstand was restored, along with a cast-iron folly, and bridges, and ponds were refurbished. The arboretum had a new children’s maze introduced along with overall replanting within the gardens and grounds.

In 2004, the arboretum was awarded the Green Flag Award, given to parks and green spaces in England and Wales that reach an exceptional standard. Lincoln Arboretum has continued to receive this award every year since then. It was also the first place in Lincolnshire to be given this accolade. Given all the hard work and money spent to return it to its former glory, it is fitting to see it recognised not only by visitors but also by an external body.

READ MORE: From catwalks to chainsaws, Instagram and OnlyFans: Meet forestry's Dirtiest Girl in the World

One of the best places to gain an overall view of the arboretum is from the 300 m terrace, which has a double row of lime trees laid out on either side of it. The terrace runs from west to east and leads to entrance gates at either end. The arboretum itself slopes from north to south and is enclosed by roads and buildings, making it a green oasis in the centre of Lincoln.

Forestry Journal: The impressive lion monument – only the trees know if it comes to live at night.The impressive lion monument – only the trees know if it comes to live at night.

The arboretum is laid out in three areas, acquired and developed at different times during its existence. A perimeter path leads from the terrace around the arboretum where many of the trees are to be found. Each is labelled to allow identification for those who have an interest to understand what different kinds of trees are growing there.
While the main entrance is off Monks Road, on the day of my visit I entered through a gate off the junction of Lindum Terrace and Sewell Road, one of four in the northern part of the arboretum.

The first tree that came into sight was an example of a Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica), small and compact with toothed leaves, some with a tinge of purple. Having not seen a tree of this type before, it was a good start to my tour, which continued with a relatively new planting of a flowering cherry (Prunus Kanzan). This is one of the most popular Japanese flowering cherry tree species. A rose garden is contained within a circular hedge and an ornamental fountain located nearby.

On my way to the terrace, more common arboretum trees in the form of sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa) were passed. Running west to east along the northern boundary, the terrace is flanked on either side by a series of common lime trees (Tilia europaea), widely seen as the tree of Lincoln.

Steps at the terrace’s midpoint lead down towards the lion monument and central area, and up towards what was the site of the old pavilion building, demolished in 1948.

Designed by E. Milner, the glass pavilion was home to many different plant species in its heyday and was popular with visitors.

It suffered damage during World War II from a bomb that hit a nearby house and soon fell into disrepair. Like many parks and arboretums, Lincoln suffered due to the war. All the metal perimeter railings were removed to support the war effort and all the fountains were switched off. After the war it went into a period of decline.

On the site of the old pavilion today grows a wonderful looking golden weeping willow (Salix chrysocoma). Although grown as an ornamental tree – and with one look you’ll understand why this was the case – it is quite a tender tree and not usually short-lived in western Europe.

Forestry Journal:  Silver birch (Betula Pendula) completes a trio or more common trees along the boundary to Monks Road. Silver birch (Betula Pendula) completes a trio or more common trees along the boundary to Monks Road.

It is a striking sight close up, but also from a distance, sitting as it does at the top of the flight of stairs with its arching branches and weeping yellowish green leaves. A plaque on the wall offers a short history of the pavilion.

On the wall at the foot of these steps is another plaque, this one green, placed there by the city of Lincoln as a tribute to the Beechey Boys. Next to this is a black bench with a tank and five soldiers flanked by two red poppies, commemorating the fact that local Ann Beechey lost five of her eight sons in the Great War, all of whom regularly walked in the arboretum. It further represents Lincoln’s significance as the birthplace of the tank.

At the west end of the terrace is a lovely fountain near some steps with a yew tree (Taxus baccata) next to them. Following the boundary of the arboretum takes you past more trees and down to the West Gate Lodge and refreshment room, both Grade II listed buildings, and near the Monks Road main entrance to the arboretum. Part of this building now contains the Arboretum Café, which as well as offering food and refreshments offers food training to the unemployed.

The buildings were designed by Edward Milner in 1872 and are constructed of dressed rubble stone. Walking along the path leading east are some interesting trees, including a cherry plum (Prunus pissardii), with its purple leaves and pale pink and white flowers, a purple beech (Fagus sylvatica purpurea) and a honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos).

This tree is also known as the ‘thorny locust’ because of the thorns that grow from its branches.

More common tree species are also present, including a common beech (Fagus sylvatica), a cedar (Cedrus deodara), and a silver birch (Betula pendula), before coming to the lake, which is in three parts. One lake at the west end of the three contains a fountain set on three legs on an island, with a small stone top from which water pours out, surrounded by bamboos and ornamental grasses. Two wooden ornamental bridges carry the path to the other lakes.

At the lakes are another two fine trees which complement the setting. One is a wingnut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia) that has large pinnate leaves and small green flowers, which droop down and ultimately become wingnuts. The second is a weeping willow (Salix babylonica), a tree species native to northern China, which in the past found its way to Europe along the Silk Road. 

Sadly, it was while taking pictures of these trees that I was approached by a local and warned about some men seated a short distance away who he felt were taking an interest in my camera equipment and me. Perhaps he might have been being a bit alarmist, but to be on the safe side I decided to head back to the arboretum centre to explore more.

There were three other listed monuments that I wanted to see before leaving. Back towards the direction of the main entrance is a 19th-century cast-iron shelter with a quite distinctive zinc roof, made by Lockerbie & Wilson of Birmingham. In the centre of the southern part of the arboretum is a bandstand gifted to the Lincoln Arboretum by the Brass Band Contest Committee in 1884.    

Forestry Journal: The golden weeping willow (Salix chrysocoma) on the site of the old glass pavilion looks even more impressive from a distance.The golden weeping willow (Salix chrysocoma) on the site of the old glass pavilion looks even more impressive from a distance.

Designed by George Smith & Co from Glasgow, the bandstand sits on an ashlar plinth and is cast iron with a galvanized zinc sheet roof. The plinth displays the names of the city wards and F. J. Clarke, who was mayor, and R. MacBair, who was the borough surveyor at its time of construction. It seems the arboretum in the 19th century had a very full programme of brass band concerts and other city events, including galas, fetes and flower shows. 1889 alone saw a reported 40,000 people attending concerts.

Perhaps the most striking of all the monuments is that of a lion sitting proudly in the centre of the arboretum, surrounded by mature beech and horse chestnut trees. This life-sized statue sits on a pedestal and was designed by Austin & Steely of New Road Regents Park. It was presented to the city by Mayor F. J. Clarke in 1872 and is reputed, according to local legend, to come alive at night and prowl the park! 

Forestry Journal: Some of the trees of Lincoln Arboretum.Some of the trees of Lincoln Arboretum.

From here, I retraced my steps back up to the terrace. It is clear to see why the city fathers had the arboretum built to allow the population of this rapidly expanded city to have somewhere to go to get away from the work environment and to spend time with friends and family. 

While it may be less of a full-blown arboretum and more of a city centre park, it is nevertheless worth taking the time to visit if you have the opportunity. It is good to see that it has been restored and is now a place that reflects its original beauty and status.