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The Arboretum

Adjacent to the Forest Park is a further 8 acres of government land that each year, during the Deepam festival, hosts a glorious cattle and horse market. This fair goes back centuries and remains a highlight of the Thiruvannamalai calendar. However, for the remainder of the year, the land is neglected and becomes an informal dumping ground and drinking spot. These bring with them a fire risk, and prevent the land being enjoyed by other people.

The beautiful horse and cattle market in full swing As the area is otherwise

We had for some time dreamed of including the area in the forest park, regenerating the land, and safeguarding further buffer zone at the foot of the Hill. But any ecological regeneration of the area had to work around the cattle fair, which needed space, and would have destroyed any young trees before they could establish.

The answer was to create an arboretum to showcase the trees native to the Hill. These would be planted with large spacings, making each one a specimen tree that could be enjoyed individually, at the same time allowing plenty space below for the cattle market to happen. In the nursery we began raising extra large samples of the various species in disused barrels, so that when planted out they would already have a head start on the cows. Then, in September 2010, a planting ceremony was held, attended by the District Collector, Local MLA and Town Chairman. This was a big step toward safeguarding the land for all.

Arboretum specimens growing nicely District Collector and Thiruvannamalai MLA
plant the first tree

At present there are forty trees planted out in the Arboretum. There is space for perhaps one hundred large trees, representing over half of the tree species of the area. We are busy collecting and growing the remaining specimens to be planted out over the next couple of years. Once planting is finished, and the trees reach a size where they no longer need individual protection, we will illustrate information boards for each tree, detailing medicinal and other uses, ecology of the tree, where it can be found, and any other points of interest. The area will then be opened up to the public.