Photo-journal: Visiting Marks Hall Arboretum in Essex

I've not been to an arboretum before and in case you're wondering it's all about the trees. Well, and the lovely walled garden they have at Marks Hall but more on that later. We popped over to Essex - a beautiful and often maligned county - on the last Bank Holiday Monday. Life's been a bit hectic since then with birthdays (mine), wedding anniversaries (our 7th) and a holiday to Portugal so that's why I'm only just sharing this with you now.

Anyway, it wasn't the nicest of days and as luck would have it, it started to rain just as we paid to go in.  Entrance fees were only a fiver, which seems pretty reasonable to me given the space you have available to roam around. 

Thankfully the Bank Holiday rain wasn't up to much so we soon set off across the bridge and up towards the Lower Lake and walled garden.

On the way we encountered plenty of new geese families out for a wander, with the goslings varying in sizes, ages and fluffiness!

In this post I'm going to focus on the trees, so I'll leave our walk around the walled garden until tomorrow.  (Update: here's the walled garden post)

Next, we headed up to the Memorial site which was up near the top boundary of the estate. On the way we wandered past some old tree stumps, and broad fairways lined with - as you'd expect - trees. 

We reached the memorial site, which is in memory of all those who served at Marks Hall and Earls Colne Airfield during the Second World War - we are all truly grateful. 

Heading back towards the Upper Lake and the Asia geographical section of the arboretum and along the Birkett Long Millennium Walk we saw these three Acers leaning towards a smaller pond. Their colour was amazing. 

Next up were the handkerchief trees, whose flowers really do look like handkerchiefs; we saw a green-white a white-white and a pink variety. 

There were also ferns, which continue to attract me and shout "photograph me" as I walk past!

And then there was this beautiful white barked tree. MOH and I immediately both said Silver Birch but the label read Betula so we thought not. Having checked it on Google it's an Himalayan Birch so is related to the Silver Birch. So we weren't too far off!

The bark was so soft though, we both briefly became tree-huggers, or at least tree-strokers (I'm not sure which is worse!). 

There was also an area with beautiful foxgloves

And I hadn't realised they were so hairy before!

I thought the foxgloves were beautiful, then we saw this and I was smitten. I thought I'd made a note of its name, but having checked I'd got the name of something different. 

So while I'd love to tell you what this is I can't - do you know what it is?

The rhododendrons (or rosey-dendrons as MOH insists on calling them) were out and were looking fabulous. The bee in the second picture thought so too!

We were back at the lake and our plan was to head towards the Honywood Oak. Our route took us past more geese, some friendly and others a little angrier and more protective of their young - see the uplifted beak in the second photo below. 

We passed the protective goose and were soon at the Honywood Oak which is thought to be over 800 years old. That's some age.

Did you know?

A single oak tree can host up to 500 different species of wildlife. That's quite a lot and stats like this always make me wonder who counted...

Not far from the Honywood Oak there's the Screaming Oak, so called because the decaying and contorted trunk of this ancient oak led it to being compared to Edvard Munch's famous "Scream" painting. I can see a resemblance. 

Unbelievably the weather was now looking as if it might improve. Just as we were closer to the exit and Visitors Centre, but first we admired this magnificent Willow. 

And being the large kids we are, we headed over these stepping stones which I have to say I felt a lot more secure on than the ones in Dovedale in Derbyshire (read about our visit earlier in May). 

The bulrushes and moss made for some interesting photos too. 

With those photos taken, we were soon heading back over a bridge towards the visitor centre and tea and cake!

All in all a great afternoon out, despite the weather. There's also a garden centre close by the visitor centre, we didn't get too long a look around though as it started raining again. 

Did I mention it was a Bank Holiday?