Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: mostly an easy stroll, one steeper ascent

Time: 90 minutes

Opening Hours: 10am to 6pm daily (last admission 4.45pm.) Closed Christmas Day and Wednesdays in December and January.

Admission prices: £6 Adults £5 Concessions £2 Children £14 Family. Season tickets are also available and prices drop in winter.

BATSFORD has an auspicious history.

The estate was inherited by Algernon Mitford in 1886 whose travels in China and Japan had a direct influence on the design of the arboretum.

Resident until 1916 were the Mitford sisters, including Nancy who later went on to write such novels as Love in a Cold Climate. Batsford Park also featured in a film adaptation of her book.

When the Mitford family departed the estate was sold to Gilbert Wills who later became the 1st Lord Dulverton.

After the Second World War the gardens fell into neglect until the mid 1950's until the 2nd Lord Dulverton, Frederick Hamilton Wills, took control of a restoration project that saw the park transformed into the arboretum we know today.

At the peak of activity during the spring months the arboretum takes on a totally different look every three weeks as it moves through the various seasonal displays of aconites, snowdrops, daffodils and scillas.

In autumn the visitor is rewarded with a blaze of colourful glory. The arboretum also holds the National Collection of Japanese Flowering Cherries plus an impressive array of magnolias, maples, pines, oaks and many more.

The walk

From the ticket office cross the road bridge and turn right to follow the winding path down to the tip of Caldwell Lake and the waterfall with views of the mighty Batsford House beyond. Keep an eye out in the fields to the right for the herd of resident deer.

The path then returns to the estate road where you turn right and follow as far as the exit gates.

Take a few paces extra to visit St Mary's Church before making the steady uphill climb. This is a fairly easy ascent and can be taken at a steady pace.

Make sure you allow time for extra side track diversions en route so you can visit areas with exotic sounding names such as The Swamp and Bomb Crater. The former was created from an old sheep wash while the latter is the legacy of American soldiers stationed in the mansion during the Second World War.

Follow the top path through the arboretum, although again a side trip is available to see the statue of Daphne.

You will eventually arrive at the Japanese rest house - an ideal spot to sit for a while and gather your thoughts, complete with a roof dragon to ward off evil spirits.

Inside the rest house is a four-foot wide cross section of elm with the rings marked out to show a selection of historical events. The tree was born in 1750 and during its lifetime the world witnessed milestones such as the French Revolution, the Battle of Trafalgar, the reign of Queen Victoria, both World Wars and man walking on the moon before it was felled in 1975.

There are 3,346 trees in the arboretum so if visiting with children why not challenge them to count them all! Of that number there are 1,667 different species.

From the Japanese Rest House continue gradually uphill and you will arrive at the Hermits Cave, a rocky recess measuring some 15-ft deep and 10-ft high, built from local stone in 1896 and a convenient place to shelter if it is raining.

The return path then makes its gentle descent, although off to the left just before the Foo Dog statue is a side path that takes you up close to the amazing Giant Redwoods that are just crying out to be hugged.

Back on the downward path don't forget to take the time to stop and look back uphill to see the Japanese deer sculptures and the rest house beyond.

As you continue downhill you will see the signpost leading you to the exit via the Garden Centre and Tearoom which, along with the Cotswold Falconry Centre located near the car park, are well worth a visit.

If you are looking to end your excursion with a pub visit there are plenty to choose from five minutes away by car at Moreton-in-Marsh, or turn right out of the arboretum to reach the Horse and Groom in Bourton-on-the-Hill.