Tomkins Park and Arboretum
The Background Story
In 2013, Winslow Town Council successfully negotiated with Julian Tomkins to purchase this land from the Tomkins estate. A grant from the New Homes Bonus scheme administered by Aylesbury Vale District Council, facilitated the purchase of, and essential improvements to, this important asset for the community of Winslow.
After numerous owners in the preceding 250 plus years, Sir Edward and Lady Tomkins purchased Winslow Hall in 1959 at a time when it was threatened with demolition. They proceeded to carefully and sympathetically restore the house and improve the garden to the rear by by planting specimen trees and shrubs but did not occupy the Hall permanently until 1975 when Sir Edward retied from the Diplomatic Service. His final tour was as Ambassador to France from 1972 to 1975.
Sir Edward entered the Diplomatic Service just before the outbreak of war in September 1939, leaving to join the army in 1940. He served in the Middle East, and acted as liaison officer to the Free French forces. He was taken prisoner at Bir Hacheim, in the Libyan desert south of Tobruk, and subsequently held as a prisoner-of-war in northern Italy. He spent most of his post-war career in Europe, where he was completely at home, speaking faultless German and Italian; but he was equally at ease in Whitehall and Washington. He was also a man of resourceful courage, as was borne out by his wartime escape from the prisoner-of-war camp in Italy and his 500 mile walk to rejoin the Allied Forces.
Given Sir Edward's strong French connections through his war service, being Ambassador to Paris, having met his wife in Paris and not least because his mother was French, it is hardly surprising that they were instrumental in helping to establish the Winslow Anglo French Twinning Association. WAFTA had all its meetings on the top floor of the Hall. WAFTA, Red Cross, Guides, Lions, the Chemo Unit at Stoke Mandeville and other organisations were all allowed to use the house and gardens for events and it would be no surprise to find Lady Gillian in her jeans on her knees weeding the borders on the patio. It was Lady Gillian who planted many of the trees we see in the park today. Each year a marquee was erected and local groups were all encouraged to make the most of the opportunity to fundraise.
In the early 1980's, Sir Edward agreed to the newly re-formed Winslow Bowls Club developing the bowling green and other facilities that we see today.
Opened in November 2016, the park and arboretum is open to the public free of charge.
A wealth of trees from various parts of the world are to be enjoyed. Trees are an important part of the landscape and much is owed to the 17th and 18th century plant hunters who travelled the world to collect new and undiscovered species of trees and shrubs which we enjoy today.
The more unusual trees included in the collection are:
- The Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)
- The Swamp Cypress (Taxodium dustichum)
- Laurel Leaved Oak (Quercus laurifolia)
- Japanese Pagoda Tree (Styphnolobium japonicum)
- London Plane (Planatus x hispanica)
- Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica glauca)
- Hungarian Oak (Quercus frainetto)
- Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
- Brewers Weeping Spruce (Picea breweriana)
- Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
- Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)
Explanatory signs have been installed close to most of the important specimen trees.
How to find Tomkins Park and Arboretum
Winslow is about 7 miles south of Buckingham on the A413. There is free parking beside the park at the Public Hall car park off Elmfields Gate, about 75m from the High Street. and at the Greyhound Lane car park.
The park has picnic tables and benches and there's a good range of pubs, restaurants and shops nearby. There are more than 80 listed buildings in the town including the Grade 1 listed Winslow Hall.
Guides to the park and walks around the town are available from the Town Council office at 28 High Street. Open 9-12 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.