The Arboretum and adjoining wildlife area extends to about 16 ha and has been created from open grassland after the property was purchased by the Lovells in 1948. While the arboretum is owned and managed by Tatton Garden Society, the wildlife area is owned and managed by Cheshire Wildlife Trust.
The Arboretum contains a number of Avenues:
Reith Avenue of Tilia platyphyllos Rubra (Red Twigged Limes), was planted to commemorate Bernard Lovell’s BBC Reith lectures in 1958. This runs south of the lake (excavated in 1963) and curves into the Jubilee Ride of Populus sp.Tacatricho 32 (now Populus sp. Balsam Spire) which was planted on the occasion of the Queen's Jubilee. Knights Avenue consisting of Populus nigra was planted to commemorate the Knighthood of Bernard Lovell.
Golden Avenue commemorates the Golden Wedding Anniversary of the Lovells and leads to the Western excarpment where there is a viewpoint.
The Great Avenue in the Northern part of the site consists of a range of native species planted by local schoolchildren.
The Western end of the site gives access to the CWT nature reserve, more detail of which is provided below.
Some of the specimens have been grown from seed collected in various regions of the world.
Sir Bernard's aim was to collect at least one specimen of each of the genera listed in the four volumes of W.J. Bean 'Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles'. The project was successful apart from some 50 genera which were not hardy in the area. The recently introduced Heptacodium jasminoides from China, the Dalmation Laburnum (Petteria ramentacea) and the rare Poliothyrsis sinensis from China, have been secured to continue this aim.
In the older parts of the arboretum, there are outstanding examples of species of the Wing Nut trees (Pterocarya). The hybrid P. x rehderiana attracts great interest, with its regular production of wing nuts. The southern beeches (Nothofagus) are well represented. There are mature specimens of N. antarctica, N. procera, N. obliqua and the particularly beautiful evergreen N. dombeyi from Chile. Amongst other rarely seen mature trees may be mentioned the Rubber Tree (Eucommia ulmoides) from China, the Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia) from Asia Minor, the Butternut Tree (Juglans cinerea) and the Date Plum (Diospyros lotus).
There are over seventy-five species of oak, including the spectacular Daimio Oak (Quercus dentata) and a grove of Red Oaks (Quercus rubra).
One of the largest trees in the arboretum, Populus gelrica, planted as a sapling in 1966, is now at least 20 metres high.
There are now more than 50 species of pines. Amongst these, the Big Cone Pine (Pinus coulteri) from California with its huge needles and cones, is a remarkable sight, as is the Bhutan Pine (P.wallichiana).
The arboretum contains several dozen species of the more common genera, such as Sorbus, Prunus, Aesculus, Acer, Salix, Malus and Fraxinus, all of which give flower and leaf colour in the appropriate season.
Of particular botanical interest is a graft hybrid in the arboretum which is + Laburnocytisus adamii (on which flowers of broom, laburnum and intermediates can appear on the same branches). There are also a number of intergeneric hybrids including x Mahoberberis aquisargentii and x Amelasorbus jackii. There are also many examples of monotypic genera such as Kolkwitzia amabilis, Ginkgo biloba, Oxydendrum arboreum and Zenobia pulverulenta.
In addition to the Pinus collection there are many coniferous genera. Abies is represented by more than twenty species, some of which are more than thirty years old, for example the Grecian Fir Abies cephalonica and the Colorado White Fir (Abies concolor). There are large numbers of Chamaecyparis, Juniperus, Picea and Thuya. The coniferous collection includes two rare trees from Tasmania - the Tasmanian Cedar, Athrotaxis cupressoides and the monotypic Diselma archeri. Amongst the Larches, Larix kurilensis from the Kurile Islands, planted in 1979, is now a large tree rarely seen outside botanical gardens. Another monotypic conifer is the Japanese Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys verticillata), which is now 30 years old. The Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum) is growing on an island in the lake. There is an extensive collection of flowering shrubs; the soil is acid and rhododendrons dominate in the spring and early summer. The arboretum contains examples of uncommon flowering shrubs, such as the winter flowering Sycopsis sinensis from China, the North American Holodiscus discolor, Rehderodendron macrocarpum from West China and the 'Salt Tree' (Halimodendron halodendron), from Siberia.
The Rhododendron near the mound is R.sutchuenense, a native of Szechwan at 5,000-7,000 feet normally flowering in February. Above is a multi-stemmed Cornel (Dogwood) from China (Cornus kousa chinensis). In June, the white bracts are the conspicuous part of the flower, larger than the Japanese Cornus kousa, in flower at the same time in the north border of the glebe lawn, to the right. The Red Oaks (Quercus rubra) South of Jubilee Ride, were a ruby wedding anniversary present (1977) to Joyce and Bernard Lovell from their eldest daughter Susan. The large multi-stemmed tree immediately south of the ride is the hybrid wing nut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia x P.stenoptera). The long drooping nuts are often a special feature of this tree during the summer months. The parents of this hybrid are south of the Mound (Pterocarya fraxinifolia) the Caucasian wing nut) and south west of this avenue, the Chinese wing nut (Pterocarya stenoptera).
Franklin is the area of land that became available for planting in 1980. The name commemorates the award of the Benjamin Franklin medal (for forwarding Anglo-American understanding), of the Royal Society of Arts, to Bernard Lovell.
The entrance avenue continues into Broom Field an area West of the Pine windbreak which previously formed the northern boundary of the gardens. To the South of this avenue are the Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia) and the evergreen Southern Beech (Nothofagus dombeyi). Opposite the 'ranch style' fence is the Westminster Border which contains specimens with some silvery features in the bark or leaves. They were a silver wedding gift in 1962 from the then Duke and Duchess of Westminster and at that time formed the western border of the Quinta gardens. Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, several of these trees are outstanding, especially the Pendant White Lime (Tilia sp. petiolaris) and the Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum).
The half mile walk to the 39 steps and the Clough leads through 2 woodland areas.
(a) Campanow: In the Spring of 1985 and 1986, this area (1.5 ha) was planted with 1,700 trees, using Forestry Commission grant aid. The intention was to produce an area of native woodland. This plantation is Tatton Garden Society’s land and part of the arboretum.
(b) Far Field: In the Spring of 1987, this area (4.7 acres) of Far Field was planted with 2100 trees, assisted by the Woodland Grant Scheme of the Forestry Commission. The plantation consists of 30% Oak (Quercus robur), 20% Beech (Fagus sylvatica), 20% Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), 30% Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), Cherry (Prunus avium), Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia), Norway Maple (Acer platanoides), Field Maple (Acer campestre) and Alder (Alnus glutinosa). The 420 Horse Chestnuts were seedlings from the pair of trees planted in 1951 to celebrate the birth of the Lovell twins. This is owned by and under Cheshire Wildlife Trust management.
The avenue in Far Field leads to the Cockpit, a hollow formed by the removal of lime-rich marl to spread on nearby fields. A subsequent use was as a cockpit. Cockfighting became illegal in the late nineteenth century, but reputedly continued in this secluded place. When the Lovell family came to "The Quinta" in 1948, the river reached the foot of the steep slope below the cockpit. The channel of the meandering river has now moved northwest in the overall direction of the flow. Other steep slopes abandoned by the Dane may be seen across the river. The 39 steps lead to Swettenham Brook. The present confluence of the brook with the River Dane lies a few hundred yards west.
The southern slopes of the open grassland south of the plantation in Far Field is a central part of the 4 mile stretch of the River Dane valley designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This stretch provides one of the best examples in Britain of how rivers change the landscape through time. The River Dane began its history shortly after the great ice-sheets retreated from the Cheshire Plain - c16,000 years ago. Fed by water in the southwest Pennines, the River Dane began to cut down rapidly into the mudsands and gravels, previously laid down by the ice and melt water. The various cliffs and platforms (terraces) found throughout the valley, reflect different stages as the river cut into the plain. Boggy floodplain areas immediately adjacent to the modern channel have only formed since 1840, and the river is still constantly changing its course as it migrates down valley. In places, the river has cut down completely through the Ice Age deposits, to expose much older (over 200 million year) Triassic (Keuper) rocks in the sides and bottom of the river bed. See The Viewpoint of the Dane Valley.
The Clough is designated as a Site of Biological Significance. Untreated areas similar to this 4-acre Clough, are now rare in lowland England. Rich in natural flora and wildlife, about half of the Clough is ancient woodland and the remainder steep grassland. The 39 steps were constructed during the winter of 1992-93, to facilitate access to the lower areas and to the walk along the bank of the brook. The Botanical Department of the University of Manchester has made a complete survey of the flora - a formidable task, well illustrated by the listing of 14 varieties of grass within a few square yards.
The variety of tree species, adjacent to the brook to the west and the River Dane to the south, provide extensive woodland and riparian habitats. Some of the less common breeding birds in the arboretum and the surrounding area include Sand Martins, Kingfishers, Grey Wagtails, Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings, and Woodpeckers. Owls and bats are plentiful, as are varieties of finch and tits, Nuthatch, Tree Creeper and Fly Catcher. Moorhens and Mallard breed on the lake in the arboretum, which is regularly visited by herons. Pheasants breed in many areas of the arboretum. There is one active badger sett near the southern edge of the Far Field plantation and foxes breed in the steep bluebell banks at the south end of Campanow. Occasional muntjac are seen, but the area lies west of the Cheshire deer territory.