Sunday, 22 April 2012

Walsall Arboretum

Walsall Arboretum is situated close to the town centre of Walsall. It is a large park and a conservation area.  It used to mark the boundary to Cannock Forest and was at one time used to mine limestone.

As an arboretum it commenced life in 1875 and consisted of two lakes, a bandstand and lodges. It also had croquet lawns and a cricket ground. In 1878 a steam boat became the main attraction on one of the lakes ( it later sank ) and a park keeper was finally appointed in 1880.

Bathing used to be common in many park lakes and the Mayor of Walsall drowned here in 1845 whilst taking an evening swim. By 1885 this practice had been banned but fishing continued by permit. The Arboretum has seen many changes over the years and in 1892 it was extended by a further 13 acres with a brick bridge over Hoar Brook replacing the old timber one.

During World War I the park was used to grow vegetables for the war effort. In 1922 the park was extended by 20 acres and 100 allotment plots were added during World War II. Additional land was acquired and in 1995 a Charter Mark was awarded to the Arboretum for excellence and diversity in its services.

The Arboretum covers an area of over 80 acres and features a boating lake, bowling green and club house. With its open playing fields, municipal golf course and children's play areas, the park is a popular destination for the people of Walsall and surrounding areas.

Each and every year Walsall Arboretum is host to the Walsall illuminations which run through August for six weeks. The Arboretum secured funds from the National Lottery in 2009 for a major transformation by way of a £220,000 development grant.

Projects will include a new visitor centre and cafe, meeting rooms, educational classroom, public toilets and accommodation for staff. A new play area is planned and the Grade II listed boathouse will be restored. Further improvements will be seen in the restoration of the bandstand and general enhancements to the existing landscape and park boundaries.

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