Westonbirt Arboretum has always been on my hit list of local sights to visit since Alex had planned her fantasy wedding there. She had painted an ethereal picture to me which had tall impressive trees towering over your head, trails through glens and quiet serenity that would be perfect for any picturesque wedding. Alas, they do not host weddings there anymore, but I still was super keen to visit after Alex’s tale.
Westonbirt is the national Arboretum which means it is England’s prized botanical garden dedicated to trees. There are about 15,000 specimens scattered throughout 17 miles of this landscape, with intertwining easy-to-walk trails which the whole family can enjoy. I could imagine this place to be an amazing explosion of colour in the Autumn, but I was intrigued by this offer of a trip to The Enchanted Christmas event!
It also timed perfectly as two days after, Sam was heading off to Australia for 5 weeks to see his family for Christmas and generally run riot around his home island of Tasmania. I’m gutted that I couldn’t join him, but frankly, there was no chance in hell that I could A) Get the time off work B) Afford to have a jaunt to Tassie for so long. We needed a festive farewell since he wasn’t going to be with me for Christmas, so this was ideal.
A festive date night at Westonbirt Arboretum
Westonbirt Arboretum lies north-east of Bristol, and depending on traffic you could drive there in about 40 minutes. But yes, you do need a car as it’s near impossible to get there by public transport. So it called for me to get my trusty partner in crime (aka my boyfriend) to get his driving hat on and chauffeur me to the forest. Co Wheels had invited me to use their service to get to the Arboretum and try out one of their many cars that are scattered across Bristol. I had heard about them, but hadn’t bothered to look up the details since… well, I can’t drive. No judgements please.
To use Co Wheels, you sign up on their website and fill out all the tedious DVLA details. Once you’re all signed up, they send you a card in the mail. Pre-book your car on their website or over the phone and you will be able to head to its location. But how do you get in with just a card? This is where I was pretty gobsmacked; you just swipe your card on the reader in the front window and the car will unlock revealing the keys inside. And off you go on your adventure!
We found our car a 20 minute walk away and got going. Especially since we were running late and the last entry to the Enchanted Christmas was at 7:30pm. We got a real nice ride which was insanely clean and comfortable, and soon we pulled up to a dark patch of land which had atmospheric lights projected into the clouded night sky.
A large tree had flashing fairy lights adorning it and excited kids were playing hide and seek beneath its branches – time to get FESTIVE! I hit up the mulled wine stall immediately before we headed off onto the trail that was open at night.
The trails of the Westonbirt Arboretum winded around a vast patch of land which took about an hour to lazily meander along. Every turn would unveil another set of fancy trees parkling under light shows that included tasteful disco balls, vivid green lazer-like lights and swirling colours against their trunks.
Every now and then you’d come across an interactive display where you can control the lights by either banging drums or shouting into a microphone – I couldn’t get in there as I didn’t really want to elbow small kids in the face to get to the front of the queue, but they were having a blast. The kids really love the Westonbirt Arboretum, but if you do take them, do be sure to keep an eye on them! In the darkness, they sure can move fast. If you head over to the Arboretum, wear boots or wellies as it is England and lets face it, the mud is going to stay mud for a good few months.
I was in bliss with my man by my side and a mulled wine hazed head (hey, I’M not driving AND it’s Christmas), wandering this wholesome forest with merry people all around – it was a proper festive date night and one you should do next year! The Enchanted Christmas has finished now, but keep an eye out for other events that the Westonbirt Arboretum hold during the year.
After our time amongst the trees, we headed back to Bristol to return our car. We parked it in Cotham and it turned out Sam had booked a dinner as a surprise! After returning to the car a few times (to check if the card reader had actually magically locked it… and to get Sam’s wallet from inside it), we headed to No Man’s Grace in Cotham. I’d heard fantastic things about this modern British tapas joint and it didn’t disappoint.
On the quiet roads of Cotham, No Man’s Grace is tucked on a corner of Chandos Road. It’s a relaxed atmosphere with a dash of fine dining, and the food is so succulent and tasty you end up stuffing your face. Order about 3 tapas each and maybe a side to accompany it as we found that just the right amount.
We had a variety of dishes, but the stand-outs were definitely the Salmon with a Hazelnut Crumb on a bed of amazing Kale with a Red Wine Tartare Dressing, Orkney Hand Dived Scallop with Chicken Fat Carrots and Fennel, and the Butternut Squash on Ewes Curd with Shallot, Parsley and Walnut. Not to mention the Malbec wine was freaking amazing! They won the Best Newcomer Award (2015) in the Bristol Good Food awards for a reason. The hearty feed soon meant we had to roll home by foot, massaging our swollen bellies, but damn, were we content.
Whilst the Westonbirt Arboretum was magical and the dinner was mind-blowing, I was beyond stoked to get this chance to give Co Wheels a chance. They really are the epitome of what Bristol stands for: community and going green. Bristol champions these qualities and Co Wheels is all about sharing with minimal impact on the environment. Only use their cars when you need to and you can also go even greener by picking an electric car!
Gone are the days where you would feel you have to buy a car to make use of your license and for those small, yet necessary, trips. Now you can book a car online and walk to the nearest vehicle – they also do van hire too so if you have something you need to pick up after a Gumtree/eBay purchase, it really is the simplest and most cost-effective way.
OK, I’m done singing their praises. Just check out their website if you need some wheels every now and then as they’re available all around England. A big thank you to Co Wheels for letting us give them a go and getting us to the Enchanted Christmas event. And a special thank you to my man for giving me such a wonderful eve; a real pre-Christmas romantic affair.
Co Wheels gave me credit to try out their service and free entry to Westonbirt Arboretum, but all thoughts and soppy feelings are my own.