Home Places to visit Thorp Perrow Arboretum, North Yorkshire: a great day out

Thorp Perrow Arboretum, North Yorkshire: a great day out

Catherine Parr oak
Catherine Parr oak

Cool Gardens: Head to Bedale to see a lot more than just trees…

Thanks to coronavirus, this day trip to Thorp Perrow Arboretum near Bedale, North Yorkshire was my first of the year and the furthest I’d been from home since the beginning of March.

It was recommended to me by my friend James, who has just started volunteering there one day a week.

Thorp Perrow was the creation of Colonel Sir Leonard Ropner (1895-1977). His son, Sir John Ropner (1937-2016) and his wife, Niki, developed the arboretum further and it is now in the hands of Sir Henry Ropner and his family.

The almost 100-acre arboretum is home to five National Plant Collections, 51 Champion Trees (recorded and designated by the Tree Register of the British Isles) and around 2,000 different types of trees, including 84 species on the IUCN list of threatened plants.

Medieval Spring Wood

It includes the Milbank Pinetum planted by Lady Augusta Milbank in the mid-19th century, and the medieval Spring Wood dating back to the 16th century.

The Arboretum is laid out in sections, all interconnected – you can literally admire the best tree species of the world in one wonderful walk.

There are guides available to identify the trees and walks – my schoolgirl error was to rely on the map you get when paying to get in – splash out on the guide!

Pictures paint a thousand words and I seemed to take that many photos…

Individual trees

There are some stunning individuals around the Arboretum, some of which are British Champion Trees. My favourite has to be the Catherine Parr Oak.

The tree was allegedly planted in 1535 to celebrate the marriage of Catherine and John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer – they lived in nearby Snape Castle (before she became the last of Henry VIII’s wives!

Plants, water and garden areas

The Arboretum is not just about trees (just as well, as they’re not my strong point, as some of the captions will attest!)

There are many wonderful garden areas and as we visited in late August, hydrangeas were the stars of the show. Not to be outdone were some impressive areas of mature hostas – great inspiration if you have shady areas to fill.

Animals, fungi and bark

Of course, there’s a Bird of Prey and Mammal Centre here but I’m concentrating on the trees, plants and their setting.

Everywhere was overrun with tiny little frogs – as seen here on my friend’s thumb – it had been very wet!

I’m also fascinated by textures, especially bark, knot-holes and fungi – here are my favourites (plus some escaping hens).

Pet cemetery

A slightly macabre but brilliant feature – an actual burial ground for pets, dating from the 19th Century.


The arboretum is stuffed with unusual follies and chainsaw carved statues – the bear won my heart!

Bog garden

The large bog garden area is lush and filled with the most beautiful big-leaved plants – the silence there is wonderful.

Bird of Prey and Mammal Centre

Of course, there are not just trees – the walled garden has a bird of prey collection, with daily flying displays (Great Grey Owl and Kookaburras were our favourites).

There’s also a Mammal Centre with meerkats on Meerkat Island, pygmy goats and wallabies (although the Wallaby Walk is closed at the time of writing due to current restrictions).

Phormium Platt's Black Pink Panther, August 30
Phormium Platt’s Black and Pink Panther, right

Plants at Thorp Perrow

There’s a lovely little garden centre next to the tea room with free admission and parking, so you can take away a souvenir of your day.

I did – a rather splendid and chunky Phormium Pink Panther for a very reasonable £18. Visit during December to buy locally-grown Christmas trees, with free delivery within a 5-mile radius.

  • Monday – Closed
  • Tuesday – 11am-3pm
  • Wednesday – 11am-3pm
  • Thursday – 10.30am-4pm
  • Friday – 10.30am-4pm
  • Saturday – 10.30am-4pm
  • Sunday – 11am-4pm

Essential information (may change – check website)

  • Open seven days a week from 10am-5pm.
  • The tearoom has a take-away service only.
  • Toilets are open.
  • There is no need to pre-book.
  • The playground is open but has rules of use.
  • Mobility scooters can be hired, advance booking is recommended on 01677 427203.
  • Admission to the Arboretum and Bird of Prey & Mammal Centre: Adults £10.95, concessions £9.95, child 4-16 £7, family (2+2) £34.10, family (2+3) £41. Carers and under fours free.
  • You can upgrade your day ticket to a season ticket – ask a member of staff before you leave.
  • For more details visit www.thorpperrow.com.

How to get there

  • From Bedale: Follow signposts towards Masham (B6268), ignore signs for Thorp Perrow along Firby Road (also signposted Leisure Centre), and continue for approximately 1 mile. Turn left following signs for Snape and the entrance to the Arboretum is about 1/4 mile on the left.
  • No access to Arboretum from Firby Road (past Bedale Leisure Centre), use satnav postcode DL8 2PS.


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