Past Events

Arboretum Walks 11th May 2024

On Saturday the 11th of May, in glorious sunshine, forty OVRA members were treated to a guided walk around the Onslow Arboretum. Our guides for this arboreal safari were J-P and Gareth, respectively Guilford Borough Council Tree Officer and Nature and Countryside Warden.

The walks were aimed at helping us to know this wonderful local resource better, to understand some of the challenges it’s facing and to consider how we might help the Arboretum in the future.

The Walk

Each of our two groups were treated to a one-hour tour of the arboretum, during which we were introduced to a number of the tree species from around the world that are planted there. These included:

  • Whitebeam: A hardy native tree that’s adapting well to climate change. It’s one of J-P’s favourite trees.
  • Hornbeam: Meaning “Hard Wood”. It’s the hardest wood to grow in the UK.
  • Horse Chestnut: With its’ wonderful flowers, but also the challenge of the leaf minor moth, which can sap its’ strength and cause smaller conkers to be formed.
  • Pride of India: With its’ lovely lantern shaped seed pods, and the interesting fact that it’s actually Chinese, not Indian.
  • Foxglove Tree: Which is struggling to adapt to our thin chalky soils and may need to be removed.
  • Juniper: Which is slowly dying, but putting on a fantastic display of colour as it does. One walker called it the “Rainbow Tree”.
  • Handkerchief Tree: With its’ wonderful large white flowers. We were a bit late arriving, as it’s at its’ best in April.

Along with the Lime , , Mountain Ash,  Sequoioideae (Redwoods), Sweet Chestnut, Noble Fir, and Eucalyptus trees, among many others.

The Health of the Arboretum

J-P explained some of the challenges facing our Arboretum’s trees. That they need to survive in our climate and on thin chalk soils, despite coming from all over the world. Pollution from the A3 was hard for some of the trees to cope with, while climate change and recent wetter springs suited some trees which were thriving, but were stunting others. Overall, our tree officers think that the Arboretum is due a bit of a refresh, 20 plus years after the original plantings. With some trees needing to come out, as they are in poor health, other new trees being planted and a general tidy up to give the trees the space and air they need to thrive.

The Meadow

Gareth took over at this point and explained what a unique and precious landscape our small patch of meadow was, and how it significantly boosted the biodiversity of Onslow Village. From explaining the difference between Bulbous and Meadow Buttercups, one of which is “a bit of a brute” according to Gareth, to painting a picture of an English countryside that used to look like our meadow, before mechanised farming, fertilisers and the production of silage eradicated nearly all the meadow in the UK.

One of our walkers had completed his Zoology PhD at Surrey University, where he studied the differing levels of plant and invertebrate diversity in the Arboretum and on the manicured grounds of the University. It was no surprise to discover that the biodiversity in the Arboretum was many times higher than the University. Clearly Nature likes to be left alone and doesn’t mind a bit of an unkempt look at times.

Future Plans

Gareth and J-P would really like to set up a local group of volunteers to help look after the Arboretum, be that by clearing overgrowth, pruning, mulching or simply litter picking. They would also like to explore the possibility of planting a “Community Orchard” on some of the open ground alongside Manor Way.

Our walkers were generally enthusiastic about these ideas. J-P and Gareth will write to OVRA soon, to set out their thoughts and to seek the support of local residents. We will pass this message on, and hopefully help establish a group that helps the Arboretum flourish for many years to come.

Our special thanks go out to J-P and Gareth for sharing their time, knowledge, and enthusiasm with us. It really was a great morning in the sun.

James Heaphy

OVRA Committee Member



Jubilee/Centennial Garden Working Party
13th April 2024

A group of the four of us weeded , restocked and tidied the Jubilee garden on Saturday 13th April.

Our main task was tackling the hundreds of sycamore saplings that had seeded themselves. We planted some snowdrops and Lily of the valley  plus some other native plants  which were kindly donated from a members garden.

We were very lucky and had a lovely sunny morning.  People passing stopped and chatted and said how much they enjoy sitting and admiring the garden.

Even a Blackbird couple appreciated our work and the uncovering of a few tasty worms! 

We completed our morning with a well earned coffee and cake at Georgies cafe.


If anyone would like to help (there is no commitment to come regulary ) please contact myself Janet Hockley via OVRA .