BATSFORD Arboretum was paid a royal visit by members of the Japanese Imperial Family at the weekend as part of their diplomatic visit to the UK.

His Imperial Highness Prince Hitachi and his wife Her Imperial Highness Princess Hitatchi visited the arboretum near Moreton on Saturday, along with other members of the Japanese Imperial Family.

The visitors were given a tour of the arboretum grounds including Batsford’s new £2 million visitor centre, which was recently completed.

Tony Russell, arboretum trustee, was delighted that the Prince and Princess enjoyed their visit.

He said: “They felt very much at home here which was lovely.

“It was a wet afternoon but we were lucky because just as they arrived the rain stopped. We were delighted that the Prince and Princess enjoyed their visit, especially because of the historical context.”

Prince Hitachi, younger brother of Emperor Akihito of Japan, is the great-grandson of the Emperor of Japan who met Bertram Freeman Mitford, the 1st Earl Redesdale who created the arboretum more than 150 years ago.

Lord Redesdale worked for the foreign office as a representative for the British Embassy in the 1860s and after his return to England in 1873 he began to plant a Japanese-inspired woodland garden at Batsford.

As well as planting, Lord Redesdale also created an artificial watercourse 600 metres long with waterfalls, islands and pools crossed by Oriental-style bridges.