Westonbirt Project FAQs
What is the Westonbirt Project?
The Westonbirt Project will make a big difference to everybody who comes to the arboretum, creating a better welcome, a better visit and enabling a greater understanding of the heritage and importance of our world class tree collection.
Phase One of the Westonbirt Project is currently in progress. This phase includes the construction of a new car park and Welcome Building and the restoration of the Grade I registered Downs landscape currently used for visitor car parking.
Phase Two will include a Treetop Walkway and Tree Management Centre. Fundraising and planning for the Phase Two is now underway.
How will visitors benefit from the Westonbirt Project?
Visitors will benefit in a number of ways, including:
• A better arrival: Having parked in the car park, visitors will pass through the Welcome Building to pay admission or enter using their membership cards, rather than queuing in their cars to pay or show their membership cards.
• More information: Visitors can become a Friend of Westonbirt Arboretum, find out about workshops and events and discover the heritage and importance of the arboretum through new interpretation all in one place.
• Access to facilities: Mobility scooters and manual wheelchairs can be borrowed from the Welcome Building. The visitor information desk and toilets will also be located here.
• Closer to the arboretum: Visitors will access Silk Wood through Skilling Gate and the Old Arboretum through Down Gate; a closer link to both areas of the arboretum.
What are the timescales?
Construction of the new car park started in January 2013 and was completed in August 2013.
Construction of the Welcome Building started in July 2013 and is due to be completed in June 2014.
The Downs landscape restoration will take place from March 2014, including removing of the current car park and creation of new footpaths from the Welcome Building. This will enable us to begin restoration of the downland.
Phase Two, which includes a Treetop Walkway and Tree Management Centre, will commence once funding has been secured.
Where should visitors park during the construction period?
From April 2014 the existing surfaced car park will no longer be in use as we restore the area back to Grade I Downland. Visitors will park on the downs until the new car park is brought into full operation. Please follow on-site signage on the day of your visit.
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: the existing parking spaces for disabled visitors by the restaurant and Skilling Gate will be returned to grassland as part of the Grade I registered landscape restoration plan – giving us the opportunity to more than double the number of spaces for disabled visitors to 21 in the new car park.
• Closer access to facilities: the new parking spaces will be located as close to the Welcome Building as possible, giving easier access to mobility scooter and wheelchair loan, and closer proximity to the Old Arboretum via Down Gate and Silk Wood via Skilling Gate. Toilets will also be located here.
How will the location of the Welcome Building affect visitors’ use of the restaurant and cafe?
The Welcome Building will be 300 metres away from the restaurant and café.
Our visitor research shows that the majority of visitors use the cafe and restaurant at the end of their visit. By entering the Old Arboretum at Down Gate or Silk Wood at Skilling Gate, visitors will naturally finish their route at these facilities.
There will be regular rest stops along the footpath from the Welcome Building to the Restaurant and Cafe for those visitors who need them. Once the Welcome Building is complete we will continue to monitor our visitors’ use of the site to ensure that their experience continues to be positive.
Will the picnic areas be moved?
No, we will keep the picnic tables in their current location so visitors can enjoy picnicking on the Downs near to the existing catering facilities. We will add new picnic benches, including several new picnic benches and tables with wheelchair access, close to the new car park and Welcome Building.
Will there be pedestrian barriers and how will these work?
Barriers will be installed which will allow fast access for Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum members using their membership cards and for other visitors who will buy tickets from a pay point. Because of the nature of our visitors, these will not be turnstiles, but gates which open to allow access for children, dogs and disabled visitors.
How is the Westonbirt Project being funded?
We achieved the fundraising target for Phase One of the Westonbirt Project in late 2012. This money includes regular gifts spread over a five year period as well as cash gifts and pledges. The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, Forestry Commission, Heritage Lottery Fund, Biffa Award, several trusts and foundations and over 130 individual givers have helped support the project.
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 are 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 underway.
Does the project have planning permission for the proposed developments?
Yes. Full planning permission for all of Phase One and elements of Phase Two of the project was granted in January 2011.
Won’t Westonbirt become too commercial?
No, we will make these improvements whilst maintaining the very special atmosphere we have now. The new facilities will impact on less than one acre of the 240 hectare/ 600 acre site. By moving the current car park off the Grade I registered Downs landscape, we’ll be giving more of this historic landscape back to visitors to enjoy.
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.
Will there be an increase in traffic and queuing to enter the arboretum?
No, quite the opposite. The new car park and Welcome Building will ease the flow of traffic into the arboretum and reduce queuing. Admissions will be on foot through the Welcome Building, removing the current pay-from-car system. This will lead to less congestion on the main road.
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.
Suppliers and services enquiries
If you represent a contractor enquiring about the provision of services or supplies to the Westonbirt Project, please visit the Forestry Commission’s procurement web page for information on opportunities: www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-89KLSV.
How will we communicate the changes?
• Visitors: Hoardings around the Welcome Building construction site will explain the work taking place. Exhibition panels in the outdoor area of the learning centre will explain the project, timescales and why we are undertaking the Westonbirt Project in more detail. 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 01666 880220 and you will be directed to one of Westonbirt’s team.