Westonbirt Project FAQ

What is the Westonbirt Project?
The Westonbirt Project is the name given to a programme of work to enhance the arboretum environment, add new dimensions to visitors’ understanding of the world class tree collection and heritage landscape, and provide a more sustainable economic future.

Phase One of the Westonbirt Project is almost complete. This phase included the construction of a new car park and Welcome Building and the restoration of the historical downland landscape. Some restoration of historical boundaries such as walls, ha has and estate fences will continue along with an activity plan to encourage participation by community groups.

Phase Two is now well underway and will include a Treetop Walkway and Tree Management Centre.

How will visitors benefit from the Westonbirt Project?
Visitors will benefit in a number of ways, including:

Phase One:

  • Phase One has already given visitors a better arrival. The Welcome Building provides a ‘launch pad’ with all the facilities and information to help visitors make the most of their day.  

Phase Two:

  • The Treetop Walkway will be an exciting addition to the arboretum. Winding through the trees at up to 13m above the ground, it will add a new dimension to visitors’ experience of trees. A range of informative and interactive information will reveal some of the fascinating science of tree growth and survival. The walkway will also provide a level all-ability route into Silk Wood.
  • The Tree Management Centre will help ensure the arboretum continues to get the best possible care and remains a beautiful and fascinating place for visitors to connect with and learn about trees. There will be an information ‘hot spot’ close to the centre explaining some of the arboricultural tools, machinery and techniques used by the Tree Team.

What are the timescales?

Phase One:

  • The new Welcome Building opened on 24th June 2014.
  • Restoration of the Downs landscape has begun and will continue with hay cut from donor sites in the arboretum being spread over the restored areas, to ensure a good range of seasonal grass and flower species.

Phase Two:

  • All funding is now in place.
  • The Wolfson Tree Management Centre is underway. We expect the whole centre to be finished early in 2016.
  • The construction of the Treetop Walkway is also underway and we plan to open it to the public in spring 2016.

How will visitors with disabilities benefit from the Westonbirt Project?
We’ve consulted closely with our visitors and Cirencester Access Group during the planning of the project to ensure that there will be a number of benefits for our visitors with disabilities:

  • More dedicated parking: we’ve more than doubled the number of spaces for disabled visitors to 21 in the new car park. 
  • Improved path network: there are now smooth-surfaced paths between all facilities and the Old Arboretum. 
  • Better access to Silk Wood: the Treetop Walkway will work with the contours of the land to provide level, step free access into Silk Wood.

How is the Westonbirt Project being funded?
The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, Forestry Commission, Heritage Lottery Fund, Biffa Awards, Wolfson Foundation, Gloucestershire Environment Trust and several other trusts and foundations and dozens of individual givers have helped support the project so far.

How is the Westonbirt Project being delivered?
The project is being delivered in phases according to priority. Phase One - the Welcome Building, car park and restoration of the Downs - were essential for improving both visitor experience and our historic landscape.

Phase Two includes a Treetop Walkway and Tree Management Centre. Fundraising and planning for Phase Two is now complete and work has begun.

Will the Treetop Walkway have steps?
The Treetop Walkway takes advantage of the natural contours of the land to be give step and ramp free access with only very moderate slopes. It will be accessible for mobility scooters, wheelchairs and buggies.

There will be steps up to a ‘crow’s nest’ play feature which forms part of the interpretation on the walkway itself.

Will dogs be allowed on the Treetop Walkway?
Dogs will be allowed on leads.

Will any trees be taken down to build the Treetop Walkway?
The last thing we want to do is remove trees. The idea behind the Treetop Walkway is that visitors should be immersed in the tree canopy and be able to get up close and personal with our tree collection. We will be carrying out remedial and pruning work in the area prior to construction to ensure trees are safe and avoid damage to them when the walkway is installed. Any trees removed will be part of the on-going cycle of long-term removal and replacement that we carry out in all areas of the arboretum. There will be a number of new trees planted along the route of the walkway.

Why is it called the STIHL Treetop Walkway?
The name has been given in thanks to STIHL who have agreed a generous sponsorship deal to help make the project possible.

Why do you need a new Tree Management Centre?
The arboricultural work carried out by the Tree Team is essential to keep the arboretum looking good and for ensuring it remains healthy in the long-term.  Their current facilities are old and poorly laid out with equipment being kept in numerous different places and often outside at the mercy of the elements. The Tree team estimate they waste up to two hours each day collecting vehicles and equipment, time that could be better spent caring for the arboretum! There is also no proper waste water capture or oil interceptors should leaks occur.

Does the project have planning permission for the proposed developments?
All necessary planning permissions are in place.

Won’t Westonbirt become too commercial?
No, we will make these improvements whilst maintaining the very special atmosphere we have now and all the work will be done sympathetically to the landscape. We want people to enjoy trees in the best way possible while ensuring the impact remains small. The project work has been supported by environmental organisations including Natural England, English Heritage and the Gloucestershire Environment Trust.

Will the cost of admission rise to fund the Westonbirt Project’s developments?
The improvements will be funded through grants and donations; they will not be paid for by price increases.

How will these new developments affect the local area?
We anticipate that these developments will increase local tourism and bring new people to the area; this will support local businesses in many ways. The developments will also encourage new community involvement and increase volunteering opportunities.

How will we communicate the changes?

  • Visitors: Signage around the site will explain any work taking place. Visitors can also sign up to receive Westonbirt’s monthly email newsletter, which will contain the latest information on the project. More information on the project and a link to sign up to the email newsletter can be found at www.westonbirtproject.co.uk
  • Media: We will work with contacts in the media to share updates at significant milestones in the project’s progress. 
  • Friends: The Westonbirt Magazine, www.fowa.org.uk website and email newsletter will keep Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum up-to-date with news and milestones. 
  • Staff: FAQs will be updated as the project progresses. Monthly staff communication meetings will include a Project update, display of materials and walk to the construction site. The weekly bulletin to staff will include links to the Project blog when appropriate and will include practical information on the logistics of the project. 
  • Volunteers: FAQs will be updated as the project progresses. Volunteer update meetings will continue to inform volunteers, along with the monthly volunteer newsletter.

Who can I contact to discuss any questions I have?
The Westonbirt Project website, www.westonbirtproject.co.uk is regularly updated with new information, so if you have internet access please check here for news and updates.
If you would like to ask a question we haven’t been able to answer, please email or call 0300 067 4890 and you will be directed to one of Westonbirt’s team.

What's happening now

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

Sophie Nash, Project Manager, keeps us up-to-date with developments on the blog...