The University of Leicester’s Botanic Garden in Oadby is a major, and very visible, element of our community engagement. Unlike botanic gardens in other cities, Leicester’s is free to visit (except on special event days), providing a tranquil and attractive venue for the citizens of Leicester and Leicestershire, 362 days of the year.
A broad range of education programmes based around the Botanic Garden (and the nearby Attenborough Arboretum) cater for primary and secondary pupils. Programmes use the plant collections in the garden to teach children about biology, ecology, sustainability and the environment and others cover numeracy and mathematics, incorporating the garden’s distinctive Fibonacci pavement, history and art.
Secondary courses geared towards GCSE and A-level students cover more advanced topics such as Darwinian Selection and Speciation, Photosynthesis and Plant Structure, and Batesian Mimicry. In all, approximately 165,000 schoolchildren have taken part in Botanic Garden educational activities since the formal education programme was launched in 1993.
For very young visitors there are activities inspired by children’s books such as We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Elmer and the Lost Teddy. The student drama society LUTheatre has staged successful immersive, interactive productions within the garden, bringing magical worlds to life for pre-school audiences.
Adult education is not neglected, with weekend and evening courses teaching botanical skills including the identification of flowering plants, trees, mosses and fungi, while bee walks are always popular. Guided tours of both the Garden and the Attenborough Arboretum are popular among a wide range of community groups. Several local art groups regularly meet at the Botanic Garden, ranging from enthusiastic amateur art clubs to the Institute of Analytical Plant Illustrators. The University’s own arts centre, Attenborough Arts, also uses the Botanic Garden for art and craft courses. The Garden is also a focus for Health & Well-being activities promoted by both the University and local community groups.
The Leicestershire branches of the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, the British Bryological Society and the British Mycological Society are among our regular users of the Garden, as are the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, Garden Organic and the Royal Horticultural Society.
The Garden, named after former Secretary and Registrar Harold Martin, also provides a tranquil repose for students after the stresses of exams and helps to underpin scientific research and teaching at the University. The plant collections and landscape features make this garden one of the most diverse in the region. The water features and sculptures are particularly pleasing and add character to the setting.
The annual Plant Sale and Family Day, which is organised by the 900-strong Friends of the Garden, offers a venue for specialist plant nurseries as well as local artists, craftspeople and community groups to present themselves to large numbers of visitors to the Botanic Garden. And if all that wasn’t enough the garden also provides a popular location for wedding photography.
It is the perfect place for a pleasant walk and there are benches for those who simply wish to relax and admire the surroundings. Variety is the key to this garden's strength.