July 18th, 2014
Following some very impressive thunder and lightning overnight, I ventured out into the Old Arboretum at first thing on Friday morning (18th July 2014) to check for any damage. All was very quiet and still, with just a few wild mammals and birds for company, before the gates open to the public and the concerts are in full swing on the Downs. I took a brief moment to appreciate how special the arboretum is in the summertime, despite 90% humidity on this occasion. Fortunately, I found only a broken branch on the giant redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) that stands alone near the big stone on Holford Ride.
On my way back to the office, I decided that today’s star of the show is definitely the Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria). Flowers are numerous and are produced in large groups or clusters in summer. Each individual flower is small and insignificant, but when most of them abort, feathery plumes are left that together can have wispy ’smoke-like’ appearance, hence the common name.
Tucked away by the Dew Pond is a work of art entitled the Westonbirt Wishes Bronze, which was created to capture the wishes of visitors back in the summer of 2003. People were invited to write their wishes on ribbons – happy, sad, funny and serious – and over 4,000 of them made up a large ball that was later cast in bronze. Although the project finished long ago, it is interesting to see that people are still putting their wishes into this hollow sculpture, and here are just two of them:
“I wish that Alex and I stay this in love forever.”
“I wish my sister would be nice to me.”
June 3rd, 2014
Sophie Nash is the Project Manager for the Westonbirt Project, to find out more visit www.westonbirtproject.co.uk.
It’s been a very busy few weeks. Rich Bullock our site manager from Speller Metcalfe, has been working around the clock to complete the building so the Westonbirt team can start fitting out furniture and testing the new building before we open the Welcome Building to visitors.
The keys were handed to us last week to officially mark the end of construction stage of the Welcome Building. We owe a big thank you to Rich and the Speller Metcalfe team in working so hard and creating such a beautiful building for us.
Rich Bullock, Site Manager Speller Metcalfe
The front of the Welcome Building which looks almost finished. Sarah Millard and her volunteers will be busy planting more trees in the coming weeks.
Photos taken during the last few weeks. Work has mainly been concentrated on completing the external works are now complete. The final finish on the footpath to Silk Wood and the Restaurant is being laid today.
The new pedestrian barriers part way through installation, now complete and being tested
The Christopher Mitchell Information Centre is almost complete, the interpretation is being installed including a large mosaic map of the arboretum.
The ladies toilets during the last few weeks. Mirrors and most importantly the toilet roll dispensers have now been installed
Over the coming weeks we will be adding the finishing touches including installing the new interpretation into the Christopher Mitchell Information Centre.
May 29th, 2014
Well, there is still plenty of spring colour to enjoy here at Westonbirt and the flowers will keep coming through the summer, though not in the abundance we are spoilt with in spring. A regular seasonal performer doing its thing just now is Crinodendron hookerianum, known as the lantern tree.
This one prefers a little shade and grows here amid the Rhododendrons and numerous other spring stunners. Come see for yourself – and let the light in!!
May 20th, 2014
Looking good out in the arboretum today are over 15,000 trees, though perhaps some more obviously than others. Of those are examples of Cercis siliquastrum, commonly known as the Judas tree. As legend would have it that an individual of this species was what Judas Escariot (of Bible fame) hung himself from. However, I prefer to highlight the more savoury (or sweet) feature that the tree is known for, the phenomenon known as cauliflory, where flowers are produced directly from the stem, as opposed young branches or the current years growth.
It is in fact more a feature associated with tropical plants including Theobroma cacao, which translates as the ‘food of the gods’, though perhaps known to more of us simply as chocolate!! Tasty.
May 20th, 2014
Ha Ha. An expression often used to represent laughter. However a ha-ha is also a landscape design feature that creates a barrier to things such as livestock, while preserving uninterrupted views. The name “ha-ha” derives from the unexpected and amusing moment of discovery when, on approach, the recessed wall becomes visible. Here at Westonbirt we are privileged to have a ha-ha that acts as a boundary around the Old Arboretum. A map from 1881 clearly illustrates the ha-ha, however it is estimated it was built in the 1820’s during the establishment of the old arboretum.
Currently work is being undertaken to clear and expose the wall so its condition can be assessed. The estate volunteers have been blessed with fine weather for this work as they use tools such as scythes to clear away the bramble and nettles, exposing the historically significant feature. Only hand tools are being used so as to be sympathetic to any wildlife that has made its home around the ha-ha, being careful to cause as little disturbance to the structure of the wall as possible.
Plans are in place for its complete restoration in the near future.
Sarah Millard, Volunteer Supervisor.
May 13th, 2014
Among the many attributes of members of the Enkianthus genus are the bell-like flowers. Here at Westonbirt, particularly on Main Drive in the Old Arboretum and Willesley Drive in Silk Wood, they are really on song right now!
May 6th, 2014
I have chosen to highlight this one this week as our largest, oldest specimen (close to Main Drive and Loop Walk in the Old Arboretum) is looking quite fine in bract right about now. Our other specimens are at various stages and are well worth keeping a close eye on!
Davidia involucrata. Quite simply, what a tree!!
Also looking good: everything else!!
April 29th, 2014
There is far too much excitement amongst the plants to attempt to mention it all here, so I shall stick to just the one today. Though suffice to say, this one is a cracker!! A reliable performer, Rhododendron quinquefolium is a quite beautiful azalea, and an old plant is looking fantastic in full flower just now on Circular Drive, at the end of Sir Georges Walk.
The flowers emerge after the leaves, which are usually in whorls of 5 (hence the specific epithet) and with a beautiful reddish border, they are a real feature in themselves. A young plant in Sand Earth sporting only a few flowers provide an opportunity for visitors to Silk Wood to admire more of the foliar display.
As for everything else, well, you’ll just have to come and get amongst it!!
April 23rd, 2014
Sophie Nash is Project Manager for the Westonbirt Project.
The Welcome Building has been changing dramatically over a very short space of time and will continue to do so in the coming weeks.
The scaffolding has just been removed. This is a photo of the front entrance to the Welcome Building.
The side of the Welcome Building, the opening to the left side is the new mobility scooter store. A new sliding door in matching cladding will soon conceal the opening when closed.
The rear of the building. The ground workers are busy preparing the base for the Forest of Dean pennant stone floor in the central entrance foyer.
The office has now been painted, ceiling finished, front plates of plug and data sockets have been fitted and the kitchen is about to be installed.
Urinals have been fitted in the mens toilets. We have two at child height and a low sink for children to use.
A selection of photos of the ladies toilets. The wall tiles are all in place ready for grouting, all the sinks and taps are and the baby changing unit has been fitted in the end cubicle.