Ipswich Arboretum: a history and celebration
by David Miller. Gresham, 2014, £10
This is a delightful book. In fact it's really like four books in one - a fully researched history of the Arboretum, a lovingly told account of the head gardeners and their work, a very useful tree trail and a fascinating collection of photographs, some from old postcards.
It has long been accepted that Ipswich is blessed with outstanding parks. The Arboretum in Christchurch Park is arguably the most special of them all. The Upper Arboretum, created as a public park in 1853, is also our oldest public park. (Christchurch Park itself was taken over by the Corporation in 1895 and the Lower Arboretum, which had existed only for private subscribers, in 1922.) So it is very appropriate that an ideally qualified person should at last tell the story of these precious assets.
David Miller, the author, was born in the Arboretum lodge next to the Henley Road gates. He clearly learned a great deal about the park's plants and trees from his father who was Head Gardener from 1966 till 1991. Now his recent researches have enabled him to describe how our Victorian benefactors finally won over the foot-draggers after six years of persuasion, followed by protracted negotiations with the nurseryman at the northern end of what is now the Arboretum. Then we come to the creation of the Brett Fountain, the Arts and Crafts shelter (not a bandstand, we are reminded), the sequence of distinguished gardening achievements and the horrible night of the Great Storm of 1987, when the author lay awake in the lodge hearing the trees come down. Happily major restoration has taken place since then and we can all enjoy the "healthful and harmonious recreation" envisaged by Councillor James Allen Ransome in 1847.
I hope David Miller will have the pleasure of seeing visitors to the Arboretum using his book to identify and appreciate the splendid range of trees. But anybody acquiring his book will realise that producing it was a labour of love for him and his other contributors.
(All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Friends of Christchurch Park for the benefit of the Arboretum and the Park.)