Did you know that England is home to the International collection of conifers?
Bedgebury National Pinetum in Kent has the world's biggest single assembly of conifer species and varieties, many of them rare, endangered or historically important. Forget Arboretum - this is a 'Pinetum' (pronounced pine-e-tum).
Established in the 1840s by the family of a field marshal who fought with the Duke of Wellington, it is now the world's most complete collection of the cone-bearing trees we often call 'evergreens' but which actually come in many colours, including purple, golds, reds, blues and blacks, seasonally or all year round.
Conifers dominate the world's forests and humans rely on them for many important materials, ingredients and services such as building products, flood defences, carbon banks, water storage, resins, turpentine, fuel, wildlife habitat, paper and medicines. So another of the National Pinetum's roles is to gather, and share, knowledge on how to protect, cultivate or use members of the conifer family, among them cedars, cypress, firs, junipers, pines and yews.
One globally useful aspect of such studies involves exploring which species may cope better with a changing climate or resist new or evolving tree pests and diseases. Another aspect is to make use of the healing secrets trees can hold. For instance, it is thanks to collaborations by the National Pinetum team and medics that many cancer patients now have a better chance of survival - thanks to Bedgebury-based work showing how to get increased yields of the cancer therapy, Taxol, derived from yew.
With over 12,000 trees of all shapes and sizes to see, in a landscape with lakes and streams, a walk through the National Pinetum is a delight in any weather - cool and shady when it's hot; sheltered and sheltering in rain or wind; ever-vibrant at all times with woody scents, the sounds of nature and captivating patterns of light and colour.
Bedgebury Forest is ideal for cycling, walking, riding, adventure play and Go Ape.
Find out more about the Forestry Commission's National Pinetum at Bedgebury and attractions in the neighbouring Bedgebury Forest.