Archive for the ‘The Westonbirt Project’ Category

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

Tuesday, 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.

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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.

Sophie
Project Manager

Ancient skills for a modern building

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Henry Russell is a leading timber framer who was heavily involved in the creation of the Great Oak Hall and the Silk Wood Barn at Westonbirt Arboretum. He has led a series of courses in timber framing for The Carpenters’ Fellowship. This week he’s been leading a team hewing huge beams for our new Tree Management Centre. Here’s his reflection on the process – and a bit of an explanation for the uninitiated!

Notches during the hewing process

What is hewing?

Hewing is the process of shaping round logs in to square beams using axes.

The first stage is to mark lines on the log’s surface; notches are then chopped into the log to the correct depth and angle.

The lumps of wood left between the notches can then be split off to the line. This is usually done using a double bevelled axe.

The surface is then cleaned up to a neat flat finish using a finer axe. This is often done using a large side axe or broad axe.


A bit of hewing history

Up until the nineteenth century, all timber had to be converted from raw round logs in to beams, planks and boards using hand tools alone.

Although cleaving or splitting was used, by the middle ages, axes, of various sorts, were commonly used by carpenters and shipwrights to square logs.

Squaring logs up allowed the wood worker to remove sapwood, reduce weight and to mark out and cut joints quite quickly and easily.

Once hewn, the beams could be placed over trestles or even over pits to be sawn into smaller pieces.


Hewing diary

Day one…

Corsican pine

We arrive on site to find five massive lumps of Corsican pine in the field close to Old Arboretum. They are 21 metres long and very very clean of knots. Superb timber!

Simon Toomer and Sophie Nash count the rings with me. Surprisingly difficult to do because, with such large veteran trees, the rings are very close together the further out you go. 135-140 years old! This confirms what Simon believed was the date of this Corsican pine plantation at Westonbirt.

The team of hewers is made up of six experienced timber framers who have been with me before on hewing events, and six young apprentices… and Brian Williamson, one of Westonbirt’s resident coppice workers.

With the sun shining, we do introductions and discuss the important health and safety issues. Hewing is safe if you follow certain rules but can be very dangerous if you don’t.

The logs have already been milled to 300mm deep beams with a chain saw mill. We mark them out in to huge cambered tie beams for the new machinery shed at Westonbirt – 425mm deep minimum. When finished these beams will not weigh 3 tonnes!

Axes start to swing as we notch the logs to our lines. The timber is so clean we can split off the chunks between out notches quite easily. They are muy buenos notches!!

Hewing begins

Many types of double bevelled axes are being used. Generally with this size of timber bigger felling axes are more effective than smaller. But of course that does depend on the strength and size of the hewer.


Day two…

We start again about 8.30am with discussion of health and safety and a plan to finish the job in the day. But… there is rain… we run to put the big white tents up!!

The rain gets heavier… luckily much of the notching and splitting (sometimes called juggling) is done. The next stage works well under tents. It is the cleaning up of surfaces with big side axes.

We have a range of axe styles. The most spectacular are the Germanic goose wing axes. One apprentice “merlin the strong” has a wonderful collection. These leave a relatively flat finish but are heavy beasts.

Those hewers of more slight build, for example apprentice coppice worker, Fiona de Wert, uses a small double bevelled axe. This tool leaves a beautiful scoopy effect.

Hewing in action

The hewing stops only for lunch brought by Sue Brentnall… fabulous local cheeses, grilled aubergine, and artisan made breads. It’s a hard life of the hewer!

We rush to finish by twilight. Tom Macurrach and Joel Hendry, two old hands, rapidly finish the last side by two man notching (a dramatic, high octane, European technique).

A high octane European hewing technique

Clearing up in semi-darkness and saying our goodbyes… we have hewed probably the longest surfaces in Europe for 300 years: 63 square metres. Crisp but undulating… unlike any sawn finish. We are keeping alive an ancient craft skill on a hyper-modern building at Westonbirt. Why not!

A completed beam

We disperse to nurse our aching claw like hands with a few pints of good English bitter.

Thanks for reading!

Henry


Useful links:

Find out more about our new Tree Management Centre…

The Carpenters’ Fellowship…

The pink pegs

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

You may have wondered what the pink pegs are next to the Welcome Building. Some of you have already guessed that these pegs are marking out the route of the new Treetop Walkway!

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A surveying team spent several days carefully marking out the positions of the pegs which represent the timber legs for the Treetop Walkway. They have also surveyed the position of the new footpath from the Welcome Building, the new road and checked the tree positions on the original survey.

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This picture is taken from the new footpath next to the Welcome Building and shows the start of the walkway. We plan to create some exciting interpretation here to mark the start of the 300 metre journey through the trees.

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From the start the walkway gently rises and then flattens as it reaches its highest point of 12 metres in the valley near to Skilling Gate. Here it will curve to the left of the Blue Atlas Cedar, shown in the picture above. Here the walkway then delves into Silk Wood.

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Now we have marked the locations of the walkway legs on to the ground, the architects and engineers will now check the size and types of foundations needed for each pair of legs. The tree team will also carry out some pruning work so we are ready for the walkway to be constructed. The photo above shows a ‘Y’ shaped Yew; we had hoped the walkway would pierce through the centre. Instead the tree team will prune the left side and encourage the yew to grow around the Walkway.

Sophie
Project Manager

Our evolving landscape

Friday, August 29th, 2014

If you have ventured into Silk Wood recently you may well have noticed our Tree Team hard at work in Maple Loop, which is an area was that was once a forest research plot packed full of hybrid larch trees. Today the mature larch trees that remain provide the perfect conditions for our young maples and other specimens. Over the last 10 years, we have been gradually thinning the larch to make space for our expanding collection and to help reduce the risk of a further infection of Phytophthora ramorum, a fungal disease that has sadly killed lots of forest trees; larch are especially susceptible.

Now that the under-planting of exotic trees and shrubs along Maple Loop are growing well and require more light, we are carrying out a second thinning to open up the over-storey. Our Tree Team are felling carefully selected larch trees, leaving the best to continue protecting the young plants around them. Some larch will even be left to mature as individual trees in their own right. Eventually when the young specimens have fully established, they will form a fantastic picturesque landscape as used to great effect elsewhere in the arboretum. We hope that one day Maple Loop will be enjoyed as much as Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum is today.

The trees we cut down may be gone – but they won’t be forgotten; each felled tree will form part of the timber frame for our brand new Tree Management Centre which is being built under Phase Two of the Westonbirt Project! We think this is a fitting end to their time in this area of the arboretum, which began in the early 1970’s as part of a number of genetics and tree breeding experiments carried out here.  

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Mark Ballard
Curator

On to the next Project…

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The Welcome Building has been open nearly two months now and is beginning to feel like it’s always been here. We are continuing to make small tweaks here and there; some of you may have noticed the new arboretum map and Window on Westonbirt images.
Now that the majority of Phase One is complete we are moving full steam ahead with Phase Two, the Treetop Walkway and Tree Management Centre…

Behind the scenes the Project Team have been busy working with architects and the Tree Team to develop the plans for the two new buildings which form the Tree Management Centre. Work started back in April with meetings between the architects, engineers and the Tree Team to design a Tractor Shed and new Mess Building. We are now about to start work on the ground works which will form the new ‘yard’ and foundations for the Tractor Shed. Once complete work will begin on the unusual timber frame, using timber from Westonbirt and other local FC forests.

The detailed designs for the Treetop Walkway are also under way. Glenn Howells Architects and Buro Happold are currently detailing the handrail, balustrade (side panels) and the walkway legs. Currently there are 60 legs in total for the Walkway, varying in length from just over 1 metre up to 12 metres!

Sophie
Project Manager

The Welcome Building is almost complete…

Tuesday, 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

Rich Bullock, Site Manager Speller Metcalfe

Front of Welcome Building

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.

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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.

Pedestrian barriers

The new pedestrian barriers part way through installation, now complete and being tested

Welcome Building Information centre
The Christopher Mitchell Information Centre is almost complete, the interpretation is being installed including a large mosaic map of the arboretum.

Ladies loos Ladies loos
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.

A Welcome Building update

Wednesday, 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.

Welcome Building

The scaffolding has just been removed. This is a photo of the front entrance to the Welcome Building.  

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.

Welcome Building

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.

Office

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.

Toilets

Urinals have been fitted in the mens toilets. We have two at child height and a low sink for children to use.

Ladies toilets Ladies toilets Ladies toilets

 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.

A Welcome Building update…

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Sophie Nash is the Project Manager for the Westonbirt Project.

It has been a while since my last Welcome Building blog and a lot has been changing inside and outside over the last few weeks!

Cladding

The cladding is almost finished! This is a photo of the wall inside the entrance foyer, opposite the ticketing window.

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A close-up of the cladding.

Information centre Information CentreInformation Centre

Information Centre 

The photos above show the recent progress of the new ‘Christopher Mitchell Information Centre’. This is where the exciting new interpretation will be along with our staff and volunteers.

Office 

A photo of the new office and kitchen for staff and volunteers. It’s oddly quite exciting to see the fronts of the plug sockets being attached!

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A series of photos of the ladies toilets. The internal ceiling and light fittings are now complete, the toilet cubicles and the vanity units are now being installed.

The ins and outs of the Welcome Building…

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

By Paul, Head of Visitor Attraction.

You might have seen the building work going on in passing, but I thought it could be useful to tell you a little bit more about what the new Welcome Building will hold..

Facilities at the Welcome Building will include:

Toilets
Mobility buggies and wheelchairs
Information desk for general enquiries
Membership
Ticketing
Dog tie-up
Interpretation

Other facilities at Westonbirt will stay where they are. Visitor Services by the Great Oak Hall will retain First Aid, Lost Property and help with general enquiries. The Westonbirt Shop, Plant Centre and Restaurant will all remain as they are.

All of the Welcome Building ticket gates are suitable for buggies and pushchairs, the central gate is the widest to allow group entry but automation on all the gates can be overridden. The ticket gates can be set in either direction. So, on the morning of a busy autumn day more lanes will be ‘in’ and in the afternoon more can be ‘out’.

The Welcome Building will be open for all functions at 9am each morning when the arboretum opens. Throughout the year, the Welcome Building functions will close at 5pm.

In the summer months, Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum will be able to enter through the Welcome Building after 5pm using their automated cards although the rest of the building will be shut.

Not to be forgotten, the building will also be beautiful! Throughout, the building has been designed with attention to detail and high design standards. The floor is made of pennant stone from the Forest of Dean, the main frame is of Douglas fir, the roof shingles and external walls are made of Western red cedar. Its aesthetics are as important as its functions: it reminds us of the arboretum’s history while exciting us about the present and pointing to the future.

The restoration has begun…

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

By Sophie Nash, Project Manager.

Work has begun on the final element of Phase One of the Westonbirt Project, the Downs Restoration.

The contractors have started to remove old footpaths; the stone material will be used to form the base layer of our two new footpaths. The new footpaths start at the Welcome Building and will lead visitors to the Great Oak Hall or towards Silk Wood and on to the restaurant.

Footpath creation

From this week the contractors will start removing the existing surfaced visitor car park.

Existing car park

If you want to know more about the downs restoration please visit our Downs restoration pages.

For more information on what to expect on-site please see our Recreation Managers blog…