14/01/2013 - The Westonbirt Project begins!


The first turf has been cut at the Forestry Commission's National Arboretum at Westonbirt as ambitious developments to improve visitor experience and facilities get underway.

Forming the first phase of the Westonbirt Project, a new car park and Welcome Building will be constructed and the Grade I registered Downs landscape currently used for visitor car parking will be restored.

The work is expected to last 18 months and starts with the car park this January. Construction of the Welcome Building and the start of the Downs landscape restoration will take place from summer 2013. Opening times and the access to the arboretum’s tree collection will be unaffected.

Arboretum Director, Simon Toomer, commented:

“The Westonbirt Project is a real opportunity to not only improve visitor facilities, but to help people understand why Westonbirt is such an important national asset.

“These are much needed developments that have been talked about for over a decade and will help to ensure we can give visitors a much better experience for many years to come.”

Simon Hodgson, Chief Executive of Forestry Commission England commented:

“The Forestry Commission is proud to be working with dedicated partners and colleagues at Westonbirt Arboretum.

“The support of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, funders, visitors, staff and volunteers has been inspiring and I am delighted that thanks to this incredible combined effort, work can begin on these important developments.”
Visitors will park and pass on foot through the new Welcome Building to pay or show membership cards. Inside they’ll find out about the arboretum’s tree collection, landscape and heritage as well as important scientific work to test trees for the future as the country’s climate changes.

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, Forestry Commission, a £1.9m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £500,000 Biffa Award and several foundations, trusts and individuals have given to the Westonbirt Project.

Further phases will include a Treetop Walkway and Tree Management Centre and fundraising for these elements will now get underway.

More information on the Westonbirt Project can be found at www.westonbirtproject.co.uk and in a special onsite exhibition within the arboretum’s Education Centre.


1) The Forestry Commission’s Arboretum Director at Westonbirt, Simon Toomer and Chair of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, Stephen Segar, cutting the first turf at the works site.
2) A visual of the new car park and approach to the new Welcome Building.

1. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is managed by the Forestry Commission and is renowned worldwide for its tree and shrub collection. Home to five national collections, the arboretum covers 243 hectares (600 acres) and contains 16,000 labelled specimens. Visitor numbers are 350,000 a year, with a membership of over 28,000. Westonbirt Arboretum was established in the 1850s by wealthy landowner Robert Holford and later developed by his son George Holford. Unlike many arboretums, Westonbirt is laid out according to aesthetic appeal rather than scientific or geographical criteria. www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt.

2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. www.forestry.gov.uk.

3. The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum was formed in 1985. The charity’s objects are to support The National Arboretum in promoting public understanding of the crucial role of trees to the environment and society. It is funded by membership receipts from over 28,000 members, other fundraising, and the use of the Great Oak Hall for events and activities. The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum is a registered charity (no. 293190). www.fowa.org.uk  

4. The Westonbirt Project will make a big difference to everybody who comes to the arboretum. The project will mean a better welcome, a better visit and a better understanding of the heritage and importance of this world class tree collection. www.westonbirtproject.co.uk.

5. Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported more than 33,000 projects with more than £5billion across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk.

6. Since 1997, the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT) has been awarding grants to environmental and community projects under the fund name Biffa Award. The fund administers money donated by Biffa Group Ltd, a leading integrated waste management business. Under the Landfill Tax Regulations 1996, landfill operators like Biffa Group Ltd are liable for taxes on waste deposited in landfill sites. The Landfill Communities Fund allows them to donate a small percentage of their tax liability to projects working to improve communities living within the vicinity of landfill sites. To date, Biffa Award has awarded grants totalling more than £125 million to hundreds of worthwhile projects. www.biffa-award.org


Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager, Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, on 01666 881 207 or email: katrina.podlewska@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

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Run for our trees!

Westonbirt 10k race

Participating in the Westonbirt 10k on behalf of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum is a great way to help care for this special place.

How it happened...

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

Read the story of the Westonbirt Project on the blog...