January 27th, 2015

Today I ventured over to Silk Wood to see how some of the Tree Team were getting on with essential tree safety work, which reassuringly was being carried out to a high standard as always.

I was also pleased to see that other team members together with volunteers had resurfaced parts of our rustic woodchip path network, using safely processed material from our very own on-site woodchip pasteurisation unit.

Brian Williamson credit to Charles Budd
I bumped into two of our independent coppice workers nearby, busy tending to the freshly cut hazel stools in one of their coups.

Large parts of Silk Wood have been managed for hazel coppice with oak standards over hundreds of years, and it can be a rare pleasure these days to see people managing such woodland in the traditional way.

If you look closely, you may even see the coppicers putting the cut hazel to a variety of different uses depending on the thickness of the stems.

I believe that we are very lucky to have wooded areas to enjoy at Westonbirt, as well as the contrasting open space of the downs and landscaped parts of the arboretum.

It was beautiful out in Silk Wood but I was very sad to find lots of discarded plastic dog poo bags and surprisingly even some abandoned bags full of dog waste and tied.

It’s in everyone’s best interests to keep the whole arboretum tidy, so that the magic of the place can be enjoyed by all.

But it is also a working environment and looked after by a small and dedicated team, and it is not very pleasant for them to stumble across dog waste during a working day.

I would kindly ask visitors to help us to look after the arboretum, by just popping poo bags in the bins provided.

Mark Ballard, Curator

A job well done

January 23rd, 2015

It’s always sad to say goodbye to a big old tree like the oak we felled earlier this week near to the restaurant.

A big well done goes to the Tree Team for the extremely professional way in which the felling of this tree was safely undertaken.

This was a well organised operation, with great care taken to ensure no damage to either buildings or people!

The team counted the annual growth rings as best they could and estimate that the tree was around 200 years old.

Watch this space to see another aspect of our ever evolving landscape take shape.

Mark Ballard, curator

Goodbye to an old friend…

January 14th, 2015

This week, work began on dismantling a large oak tree near to the Westonbirt Restaurant. Curator Mark Ballard explains why the decision to remove this much-loved tree was made.

It is with a heavy heart that we have decided that the time has come to remove this very large Common Oak (Quercus robur) tree number 26-0675, that has long been a familiar feature in our landscape.

Work begins on dismantling the old oak tree

Because the tree is so old and certainly predates the arboretum, we do not have any historical records such as a planting date, but it will be interesting to count the annual rings once felled.

We have been monitoring this particular tree very closely for a long time, not only because of its location in a busy public area, but more so due to several health issues that have required annual inspection.

We have noticed a gradual decline in health that has required more and more intervention, in order to ensure the safety of everybody that passes beneath the tree.

You may have noticed some die-back of branches in the canopy overhead, which our team of climbers have had to ‘deadwood’ each year, and several of the larger limbs were previously braced with cables to provide additional support.

On the main stem there are bracket fungi as well as cracks and ‘stem bleeds’ that are all signs of internal decay. Unfortunately, the soil around the roots has been compacted by lots of tiny feet over the years too.

So because of these factors and its close proximity to people and buildings, we have taken the decision to fell the tree on the grounds of safety.

As ever, saying farewell to an old tree such as this does present us with an opportunity – we will use the vacated space to improve the landscape here in the future and to plant more specimens.

Mark Ballard, Curator

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre: An Update

January 13th, 2015

Work is currently underway on what will become the new Wolfson Tree Management Centre. The new facility will provide all that Westonbirt’s expert tree team needs to manage the tree collection.

Over the last few weeks the new yard and machinery store have started to take shape, helped by several loads of stone and concrete.

In progress: new tree management centre
This is a photo taken from the edge of the new yard; you can clearly see the footprint of the new machinery store which is 20 x 30 metres.

Footprint of the new machinery yard
Both end sections of the new machinery store have been concreted to their finished floor level. You can see the temporary timber shuttering in these photos. The metal hoops to the left of the picture will be used to support the timber columns and will secure the timber frame to the foundations.

New machinery store
Due to the large area and winter weather, the base will be poured in sections. Fingers crossed we don’t have a cold snap!

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

For more information about the Tree Management Centre, visit the Westonbirt Project Pages…

Christmas fundraising – a big thank you!

January 7th, 2015

Thank you to everyone who bought a raffle ticket, bid on a silent auction lot or who took part in the activities in the Great Oak Hall during Enchanted Christmas.

I hope you had as much fun as we did.

Thanks to you, we’ve raised over £4,000 to help support the arboretum.

For anyone who took part in the guess the number of lights on the trail competition, there were actually 22,189 lights. Well done to Oliver for guessing the closest.

We were particularly impressed by the amazing drawings that our younger visitors did for the children’s drawing competition. We could only have two winners but have included some of the drawings that we thought were particularly good.

Grace aged 8 and Camilla aged 6 were our winners – click on the first two images in our gallery to see their work. The gallery also includes some of the other lovely drawings entered into the competition:

Thank you also to all the amazing volunteers who helped and to Snowbusiness and Powerline for their help with the event and to Calcot Kitchens, Neil Carmichael MP, The Vine Tree, Highgove, Williams Automobiles, Kena and Sean Magee, Whatley Manor, Francois Bronn, Waitrose Malmesbury, Thomas of Malmesbury, The James Dyson Foundation, Paul Hayden from Greenwood Courses, Ballooning Network, David Ewins, The Dormy House Hotel, Margaret Headen, Bloomsbury Publishing, Jigsaw, Cotswold beauty, Tracklements, Whichford Pottery, Wentworth’s, Cheltenham Festivals, Henrietta’s House and The Bath Chorus for their generous support.

Lorraine Jones, Fundraising Manager, Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Don’t just take our word for it!

January 5th, 2015

The role of the Community Inclusion team is to enable a greater number of people from under-represented groups to experience the arboretum and to connect with trees. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund Community Inclusion Officer, Claire Goulding, is working with older and vulnerable adults at risk of exclusion because of social isolation, lack of transport and mental health conditions.

We did some great work with a wide range of groups throughout 2014. But don’t just take our word for it! Here are some lovely words from participants and organisers of just some of the visits and outreach activities…

“The group were able to revisit areas of their childhood. Coming together and being at one with nature having the opportunity to take their time and take in Westonbirt.” Nature Printing Facilitated Visit 2014, Charlotte Galling, Community Development Officer, Stroud District Council

“The activity got residents talking to each other (which is a hard thing to do!) and has also been a talking point since. Everyone enjoyed the visit and found it interesting, improving their wellbeing in general.” Outreach session 2014. Katherine Davis, Activity Coordinator Ashley House BUPA Care Home

“I came with my husband and he loved the forest and he loved talking to the chaps that worked there.” Mary, 79 years old , Withywood Alzheimer’s Society Memory Cafe Support Group

“Very impressed with the session – thought it was a great idea to ‘bring the trees’ to the residents  for generating discussion and provoking memories” Relative visiting father at Ilsom House Elderly Care Home

“Wonderful contrast to today’s hectic world – instant, effortless meditation” Amanda, 52 years old, Stroud District Council Older People Arts Group

“I have realised that being in touch with nature helps me a lot. I always knew that but coming here has just confirmed it” Karina, 28 years old, Nelson Trust Women’s Service

“There is so much we can gain from time spent at the arboretum and this latest programme has undoubtedly had a positive impact on our client’s health and well- being.  Our thanks go to Claire and the team at Westonbirt for giving us the opportunity, for having endless patience, encouragement and a vast array of resources to inspire and educate!” Beanie Cooke, Horticultural Therapist from Women’s Service, Nelson Trust

Find out more about our Community Inclusion Programme…

Claire Goulding, Community Inclusion Officer, Westonbirt, The National Arboretum

Building a community around our coppice

January 5th, 2015

The role of the Community Inclusion team is to enable a greater number of people from under-represented groups to experience the arboretum and to connect with trees. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund Community Youth Officer, Karen Price, is working with young people so that they can discover, explore and enjoy the arboretum, either as part of an organised group or as an individual visitor.


Unworked for over 60 years, a large area of native coppice along Willesley Drive is now being revived.

Since the summer, we have been working with groups of adults and teenagers to start to bring back into productivity some of the remaining  derelict coppice woodland on site.

We have also been working closely with resident Westonbirt coppice worker, Brian Williamson, to ensure any new areas brought into rotation can be properly managed on a long term basis.

Participants have learned basic coppicing techniques, safe tool use and fire management, the different types of products that can be harvested from coppice and native tree identification.

Groups have also helped bramble bash to clear a site for the re-location of the old craft shelter that once stood at the Skilling Gate end of Willesley Drive, which needs to be moved to make way for the tree top walkway.

The craft shelter has become the new home of the community coppice groups, to provide shelter from extreme weather and an area from which to start and finish a day’s programme, enabling us to reflect with participants on their aims and ambitions, fears and achievements.


Wild Westonbirt, a monthly bushcraft and survival club for young people based at the arboretum has also been introduced, with participants learning about fire lighting, food and water collection, shelter building and navigation techniques.

Find out more:

Karen Price, Community Youth Officer, Westonbirt, The National Arboretum

Tree of the Month: January 2015

December 18th, 2014

January - ash

What is this month’s tree of the month?
Fraxinus excelsior
Common ash

Why is it tree of the month?
Because of its spectacular form, most evident in its leafless state

Where can I see it?
Approaching or leaving the Welcome Building you’ll find this fine specimen which is one of the best you’re ever likely to see.

Dan Crowley, Dendrologist, Westonbirt, The National Arboretum

A great eight months in community inclusion

December 18th, 2014

The role of the Community Inclusion team is to enable a greater number of people from under-represented groups to experience the arboretum and to connect with trees. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund Community Inclusion Officer, Claire Goulding, is working with older and vulnerable adults at risk of exclusion because of social isolation, lack of transport and mental health conditions.


There are three over-arching programmes:

  1. Facilitated Visits
  2. Outreach
  3. Community Coppice

Some of the key aims and objectives…

  • To grow participants’ confidence in their own ability
  • To encourage individuals to share a positive experience, working together
  • Increase in physical stamina and health
  • Learn about our tree collection to explore and discover some medicinal and aromatic trees in our collection
  • For participants to grow therapeutic connection with Westonbirt Arboretum and trees in general as spaces for personal rejuvenation and relaxation.

Key achievements this year…

  • The ‘Westonbirt Wellbeing Programme’ has been a natural development from earlier pilot Community Coppice group from Nelson Trust this year, now working with Nelson Trust Women’s Service as a now stand alone therapeutic programme. This programme has incorporated a reflective diary looking to evidence the impact the activities are having on the women’s mental health and wellbeing
  • New partnerships with NHS social prescribing, probation services, and brain injury clinics in development
  • New marketing design to attract participants.

Snapshot of groups I have built partnerships with…

  • Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Memory Cafes
  • Bristol Drugs Project
  • Turning Point Wiltshire Substance Misuse Service
  • Nelson Trust Women’s Service
  • The Churn Project
  • Gloucestershire Rural Community Council
  • Stroud District Council
  • Hazlewood Housing Association
  • Fairshare Community Action Charity
  • The Hollies residential care home
  • Ilsom House residential care home

Main activities trailed this year with a range of adult community groups…

  • Nature printing – using an old botanic printing technique exploring different specimens in the collection
  • Aromatherapy and trees – to learn about the aromatic and medicinal properties of some trees in our collection and from around the world by making an aromatherapy cosmetic balm and taking part in a led therapeutic hand massage workshop
  • Community Coppice Project: learn about Westonbirt’s past connection with coppicing and current woodland management practice
  • Mindfulness and sensory walks out in the arboretum
  • Hurdle-making and green wood products such as spatulas, butter knives and spoons
  • Natural craft activities such as foraging, bushfire cooking, fire lighting making drawing charcoal, woodland mobiles and clay sculptures
  • Multi-sensory outreach programme that taking our interactive reminiscent activities out to dementia groups and elderly care homes and encouraging individuals to share their anecdotes and connections with trees.

Participants figures to date from May – December 2014…

  • 188 participants have visited Westonbirt Arboretum as part of a facilitated visit programme
  • 260 participants have taken part in the offsite outreach programme
  • 111 participants have taken part in the Community Coppice woodland management programmes .

Find out more about our work bringing new audiences to Westonbirt…

Claire Goulding, Community Inclusion Officer, Westonbirt, The National Arboretum

A new home for the Tree Team: The Wolfson Tree Management Centre

December 9th, 2014

Tree team

The ground works have begun on what will become the new Wolfson Tree Management Centre. The new facility will provide all that Westonbirt’s expert tree team needs to manage the tree collection.

Existing treeteam yard

The existing yard, tractor shed and ‘mess room’ are too small for the team, see photo above.

New plan

The new Tree Management Centre will provide the Tree Team with a new yard and a new large machinery store. The new machinery store will include a series of large ‘fire engine’ type doors so the team can drive through the building to access the Old Arboretum to the north and Silk Wood to the south. This large store space will provide secure undercover storage for all of the machinery and tools used by the team.

Groundworks are underway!  Groundworks are underway!

The new yard will be over four times the size of the current yard. This space will be used for storing materials such as planting stakes and netting. A new environmentally friendly vehicle wash down facility has also been included in the design of the yard.

SAM_0144  SAM_0147

The contractors have been preparing the site by removing sub-soil and bringing in and compacting new stone. They have been levelling this area to ensure any rainfall falls correctly to the new drainage. The compacted stone will form a solid base for the drainage and subsequent concrete foundations.

Project Manager