THIS week reporter Grace Walton paid a visit to the Arboretum, also known as the ‘Arbo,’ an area at the heart of the city.

I know the neighbourhood well as I have relatives in the area. The history of the Arboretum goes back to the 18th century, when the place was just grazing fields.

Nowadays, besides residents complaining about parking, the area is known for Pocket Park, Worcester canal, the former Sansome Walk swimming pool, Worcester Baptist Church, local pub the Chestnut Tree, which is run by quirky landlord ‘Mad Pierre’, and so much more.

Ward councillors Jenny Barnes and Joy Squires told me what they think makes the Arboretum a special place. Cllr Barnes said ‘you can’t beat the Arboretum,’ describing it as a ‘very friendly community’.

Cllr Squires said: “It’s a very diverse area. The Arboretum has always welcomed migrants to the city, going way back to Italians who came over after the First World War. And then Polish people after the Second World War, particularly those that had come over to Britain to escape the war.

“There’s been a succession since then. We’ve got a lot of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Eastern European families. So, it’s a fantastic mix of cultures which people who live here really enjoy.”

Frabhjot Virk, who has run Virk’s Newsagents for 34 years, told me: “Our shop is like the heart of the community. It’s easy for people to pop in. We talk to our customers here and provide a friendly service. A wide mix of people come into the shop, from the young to the elderly and all sorts of nationalities.

“The Arboretum is a really friendly place and a nice area to live in.”

The newsagent in Northfield Street recently expanded and has been offering a Post Office service to residents since October last year.

The Chestnut Tree, run by landlord Colin ‘Mad Pierre’ Robinson, is a community hotspot for locals. The pub is designated as a community asset which means that if it was put up for sale, it would be offered to the community first as a safety net. This offers protection to the venue as people were concerned about Worcester pubs closing.

A Pocket Park was opened in Westbury Street in 2007, which offers green-fingered individuals a place to enjoy nature. The community garden was opened after money was raised by the resident’s association and matched by the city council. There are flower beds, herb gardens, bee homes, outdoor games and fruit and vegetable patches for people to help themselves to the fresh produce.

The former swimming pool in Sansome Walk, which closed in December 2016, is set to be demolished ‘by the end of the year.’

The council has decided the site will be developed for housing.

Cllr Barnes said she would like to see the derelict swimming pool site to become housing which will be specially adapted for people with disabilities.

She said: “People living in the Arboretum, as they get older, they need more careful housing provided to them such as wheelchair access or just not two flights of stairs. I am hopeful that the Arboretum will provide a space for people with disabilities.”

There is an estimated population of around 2,000 people who reside in the Arboretum.

The Arboretum Residents Association organised ‘Love the Arboretum’ on Saturday, February 15, which was a light festival.

Residents created an outdoor light gallery which welcomed explorers to the area to visit the trail.

Rev Darren Smith, minister at Worcester Baptist Church, said: “Worcester Baptist Church has been part of the Arboretum for over a 150 years and in recent times has worked jointly with the residents association with the running of various events such as ‘Carols by the Canal’ and the ‘Love the Arboretum’ light display event.

“Both of these events help to bring about community cohesion. The church also runs groups used by those in the community. This includes a weekly toddler group, a bi-weekly lunch club, and a weekly crafts and friendship group.”


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Parking is a nightmare for residents in the Arboretum

Now, onto parking issues in the Arbo. An awful lot of commuters use the area to park their cars before they go off to work each morning.

You can see drivers circling the streets waiting for a resident to drive off so they can then pinch their spot.

But, residents will be delighted to know that the Residents Parking Scheme has been approved and is now waiting on the county council to fix a time to start the work that will be involved. Charging points will also be introduced to streets for electric cars.

Mrs Virk, from the newsagents in Northfield Street, mentioned how problematic parking can be, and that it “must be sorted soon.” She says the issue has been ongoing for years.

A resident, Gillian McCabe, said: “Sometimes I am reluctant to use my car and go out. Often you pop out to get the shopping and come back and there’s no parking spaces.”

What are your views on the Arboretum? Are there any other problems in the area you’d like to share?

If you would like to tell your story, get in touch by calling Grace 01905 742257 or email