Shady Lane Arboretum (also known as Evington Arboretum)7021

Leicester, England

Brief Description

The Arboretum is an attractive open public space on the southern boundary of the City of Leicester. Recreational, botanical, wildlife and historical features make this a popular space. There are over 500 species of trees and a fenced nature area has been planted with native trees and shrubs and a sown wildflower grassland. The southern section of the site below the brook is predominantly grassland, and is managed as meadow or rough mown grass to encourage a species and wild flower diversity. It is surrounded by a Breedon gravel footpath and criss-crossed by a well-developed system of grass paths.

History

The north-west part of the site known as Piggy's Hollow is the site of a former medieval moated manor house and associated fish ponds. From 1942 the site was in military use. From 1945 to 1947 it was used as a Prisoner of War Camp and then occupied by squatters. From 1948 through to the late-1960s the site was used by Gartree Riding School. The site was established as an Arboretum by Leicester City Council in 1970. In more recent years the northern part of the arboretum in particular has been developed as a site for memorial planting.

Visitor Facilities

0116 252 7003

Terrain

The site slopes from north to south and is dissected in half by Evington Brook.

Detailed Description

The City of Leicester Local Plan designates Shady Lane Arboretum as a Green Wedge and, along with its associated sites, Piggy’s Hollow and School Lane Spinney, forms part of a large Site of Importance to Nature Conservation (SINC) based around the Leicestershire Golf Course on the western boundary of the Arboretum.As such it is included in the Bio-Diversity in Leicester Site Alert Map and forms an important wildlife corridor.

Despite their close proximity to the urban sprawl of Leicester and its suburbs, the Arboretum and its associated sites have a real sense of being in the countryside. Each of the compartments has its own individual visual character, from the dappled light and closed-in environment of the School Lane Spinney, to the enclosed nature of Piggy’s Hollow with its tall wild hedgerows, ancient earthworks, and mature stands of pines, on through to the sloping grassland of Church Field with its regimented rows of memorial tree planting and views of open countryside to the south, down through to the valley of Evington Brook.Evidence of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation can still be seen running north to south down the length of Church Field.

Man-made dams crossing the Arboretum following the valley of the brook show evidence of terracing associated with medieval dams and fishponds and there is an unsubstantiated view that there may have been a mill on this site dating back as far back as Roman times.

Open expanses of grassland lie below the brook, interspersed with stands of trees, poplars and willows. To the east, along Shady Lane, the land rises to an area planted with a variety of fruiting trees.This network of hedgerows, spinneys, trees, wooded stream valley, scrub and grassland habitats are of importance to wildlife.

Huge old Sycamore trees line Shady Lane, which forms the eastern boundary of the arboretum.Oral evidence suggests that this line of trees was originally planted in 1850 around the same time that the road was constructed, though whether any of the original trees still exist cannot be confirmed.

A small car park is found at the south-east corner of the Arboretum.A Breedon gravel path runs round the outer edge of the Arboretum and grass paths criss-cross the inner area. These grass paths are regularly mown, whilst the rest of the grassland is left unmanaged, apart from the grassland around the memorial planting where it is mown to provide easy assess.The Arboretum and its associated sites are well used for walking, exercising pets, socialising, orienteering, enjoying a family picnic, or for younger users to enjoy the site for informal play. The site also provides a range of seating and picnic benches for users to sit and relax and just enjoy the peace and quiet provided by this open public space right on the edge of the City of Leicester.

Features

Plant Environment

  • Plant Type
  • Arboretum
  • Earthwork
  • Description: Piggy?s Hollow to the north of the site is an old moated site with a series of steep slopes, mounds, damp hollows and ditches. Piggy's Hollow is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) where remaining earthworks from a medieval moated manor house and associated fishponds are still clearly visible. The site has remained undeveloped and unmanaged for many years with no soil disturbance and thus any archaeology is likely to be well preserved.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Brook
  • Description: Evington Brook, which has no engineered banks, runs from east to west virtually dissecting the Arboretum in half. Although not always visible, it adds additional visual interest with its flowing water and meandering passage from Shady Lane on through into the golf course. Crataegus monogyna, Fraxinus excelsior, blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), elder (Sambucus nigra) and hazel (Corylus avellana) can be found occasionally along the brook, while crack willows (Salix fragilis) are frequent in the west of the site. Along the boundary with the golf course the line of trees along the brook becomes more substantial, with mature oak and ash trees.
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

0116 252 7003

Directions

The Arboretum lies two and a half miles east of Leicester City Centre, a short five minutes walk south of Evington village. A regular bus service runs between the City centre and Evington village. A small car park is located at the junction of Shady Lane and Gartree Road. Pedestrians can walk into the Arboretum from entrances off Shady Lane, Gartree Road, or from School Lane, across Piggy's Hollow. Access for wheelchair users is limited.
History

Detailed History

Evington possibly dates back to Anglo-Saxon times.It was originally known as Aefa’s Turn, then Avintone and finally Evington.There were Roman settlements along the nearby Gartree Road.The Doomsday book provides the earliest description of Evington, in which a mill is described.

The manor of Evington came into possession of Hugo de Grentemesnil following the Norman Conquest. After his death his property descended to the earls of Leicester and was held by them until 1265, when it was forfeited to Edmund of Lancaster, Henry III’s son. The Lancasters remained overlords of the manor of Evington until the Duchy was merged with the Crown in 1399.

In the early-13th century the manor of Evington was subinfeudated to Richard de Grey, a member of the Derbyshire family of Grey of Codnor. He and his descendants held Evington as sub-tenants until the late-15th century. It is likely that John de Grey constructed the moat associated with the manorial buildings in the late-13th century. Immediately to the east of the moat lies the parish church of St Denys and it is probable that the present church would have been built at around the same time, although there is evidence to suggest that a church has existed on this site since the Norman Conquest.

Sir William Stanley acquired Evington in 1491 but the King seized it back from him in 1494 in attrition for his support of the pretender, Perkin Warbeck. The King leased the property to Robert Orton, bailiff of Leicester, who at some stage assigned his lease on to the Leicester merchant, Roger Wigston.

In 1526 Wigston surrendered his lease back to the King, possibly because the manor of Evington had been granted to George Hastings who later became Earl of Huntingdon. The Hastings family retained the manor until 1616 when it was sold to William Cavendish, Earl of Devonshire, whose family held it for the next 100 years.

It is likely that the manorial buildings became disused during the period when the Hastings and Cavendish families were in possession. Evington would have been one amongst many local possessions of these wealthy families and thus was probably never again used as a main residence. The earliest map of Evington that survives is dated 1627 - probably drawn at the time of the enclosure of Evington’s open-fields – and no building is shown on the moated area which is marked simply as Hall Yard.

Around 1734 the Manor was purchased by Dr James Sherrard of Eltham, a well-known botanist and apothecary. Under the provisions of his will dated 1737 the property was divided among his five nieces. In time these five Lordships of the Manor shares descended to three families, the Kecks, the Burnabys and the Colemans and, by 1877, the Lordship had passed to the Keck branch.

Shady Lane, which runs along the Arboretum’s eastern boundary, was built around 1850 to take noisy traffic away from the vicinity of Stoughton Grange, the home of the Keck family. Being conspicuous, standing out from the surrounding hunting country, it soon became a popular walk with local people.It is also possible that a pleasure boating lake may also have existed in this area, though for whose use it is not clear.

The name 'Piggy’s Hollow', the site of the former manorial buildings, did not come into use until the 19thcentury.It is believed a Mr Wilson kept his herd of swine here to prevent them from straying.

By the 19th century most of the property belonged to Thomas Powys-Keck who sold his estate very shortly after the end of the First World War, the chief purchaser being the Co-operative Workers Society.

In 1942 a camp was built on the site now occupied by the Arboretum to house the 82nd American Airbourne Division prior to the D-Day landings in 1944. During 1945 the camp was turned into a Prisoner of War camp and, following its decommission in 1947, was occupied by squatters until it was dismantled, bulldozed and levelled. During the period from 1948 right through to the late-1960s the ‘Gartree Riding School’ used the site.

The Leicester City Council established Shady Lane Arboretum in 1970as the city's contribution to the European Conservation Year. Designating the site as an arboretum saved the land from possible development and secured its future as a public open space.It was developed between 1970 and 1973 under the direction of the late Mr George Page, Parks Superintendent, during which time over 500 trees were planted. All were donated by local businesses, organisations and members of the public.Many trees were planted by family, for instance the poplars and willows in the south-west corner of the arboretum, interspersed with random planting of other specimen, ornamental and native species.

In more recent years the northern part of the arboretum in particular has been designated for memorial tree planting. Ornamental trees are planted by the City Council on behalf of members of the public who wish to commemorate relatives and friends and are chosen for ornamental value and suitability to the site.These include such cultivars as Liquidambar styraciflua, Liriodendron tulipifera, Cercis siliquastrum, acers, wellingtonias and prunus.

References

References

Contributors

  • Felicity Hector