The Parkland at the Harcourt Arboretum is part of a Grade1 Listed Estate. The Parkland and Arboretum date to 1835 having been designed as a landscape of quality and interest with historically significant plantings and features. The parkland has been managed as arable and pasture land since the University purchased the estate in 1949. In 1963 the Botanic Garden took over the management of part of the parkland. This later increased in size and since 1999 the Garden has managed 22 acres of this historic parkland. The route of the access road, which leads to the Manor House can still be seen running up through the parkland along with the outlines of the major parkland clumps.
The 1st Earl Harcourt built the house at Nuneham to a design by Stiff Leadbetter between 1756 and the early 1760s. At this time the area later occupied by the Arboretum and Parkland was part of the unenclosed waste of the parish of Marsh Baldon, and owned by Queen's College.
When the estate was first remodelled around 1750, the Parkland stretched to the Oxford Road with clumps and boundary plantings of mostly native species on the area of grassland within the Arboretum. The wooded area of the Arboretum was at this point managed as pasture within an adjacent estate. This suggests that the 'meadow' should be managed as grazed Parkland and that tree planting in this area should recreate the original parkland clumps.
Parkland meadow which is already species rich in one small area helps to support a diverse wildlife population, we have in the past at hay making time left areas uncut around trees and along fence lines to help habitats relied upon by a variety of small mammals. This in turn provides food for our Barn Owl which has taken to our owl box and raised young here for the first time. The areas near to the parkland trees are host to a Hare set and occasionally they can be seen racing across the meadow. The meadow is drained into the pond that is supporting a wealth of Great Crested Newts. Some trees are inhabited by bats.
There are 67 acres of meadows at the Arboretum, including extensive areas of native wildflowers. The wildflower meadows, of immense aesthetic value, also include species that had been previously under threat, such as the distinctive Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-coculi).
Palmer's Leys Meadow
Palmer Ley's is 50 acres of ex-arable field purchased by the Oxford Botanic Garden in 2006. Approximately 20 acres of this land has been planted with 13'000 native tree species including oak, lime, ash, hornbeam, beech, yew and 4 species of native sorbus, the remaining 30 acres have been set aside as the focus of a restoration effort to produce a species rich meadow similar to that of the adjacent semi-natural grassland also owned by the Oxford botanic Garden within the Harcourt Arboretum (named pylon meadow).
The restoration method has been carried out in three stages, for one main reason that only enough seed was able to be collected from pylon meadow (this process was done by brush harvesting the seed store within pylon meadow) to cover approximately 10 acres. Under the advice and guidance of Charles Flowers this collected seed was supplemented with additional species from a commercial seed mix.
The restoration effort was carried out in stages, with different sections of Palmers Leys being ploughed and sown at different times. The first section, an area of approximately 8.5 acres, was ploughed and sown in the autumn of 2008. The second section, an area of 9 acres was ploughed and sown in the spring of 2010, and the third section ploughed and sown in the autumn of 2010.