Archive for the ‘The Westonbirt Project’ Category

STIHL Treetop Walkway: an update

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Work has begun on the STIHL Treetop Walkway, which will give visitors an exciting new perspective on trees. The walkway is part of phase two of the Westonbirt Project

It’s all go here at Westonbirt at the moment. The STIHL Treetop Walkway is well underway with most of the foundations complete. The main structure will soon start taking shape when four very large cranes arrive!

The majority of the Walkway is being fabricated off-site; in Yorkshire where the steel sections are being manufactured and in Holland where the timber legs are being machined.

Amsterdam
I recently visited Woodspecials in Holland along with Paul Miller from Glenn Howells Architects, Shane Marsh from SH Structures (the steel fabricators) and Susanna Byers, our Interpretation Support Officer, to check progress.

The timber has been sourced from Belgium and Germany and is a mix of Larch and Douglas fir. The legs vary from 2.5 metres up to 13.4 metres in length. This is a picture of me stood next to some of the Larch before machining; this is about 8 – 10 metres in length.

Me by the legs
The log is carefully manoeuvered into the workshop, one at a time due to their size!

STHIL chainsaw
The log is trimmed to size at the end to ensure it fits onto the machine. Once in place the team check if the timber is in its correct position to ensure the straightest section is cut from the log. They do this partly by eye and also using a tape measure and some very large calipers!

Once checked the machine gets going. The timber rotates as the blade runs up and down the length removing the sapwood and creating a perfect smooth finish to our precise dimensions. It was mesmerising watching the timber being machined but also incredibly loud.

The first leg is almost complete
The first leg is almost complete

The first leg is ready for the final touches
The first leg is ready for the final touches. The second one is ready to be machined.

The first delivery of the completed legs will start arriving in the next few weeks. Once here they will be sorted into order, transported to the walkway and then carefully craned into position. This will involve careful manoeuvring over and underneath the tree canopy. Please be aware that we may have to close Skilling hill and parts of Willesley Drive for your safety.

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

A taste of timber framing

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Last week, staff and volunteers here at Westonbirt had an opportunity to get involved with the construction of the timber frame for the machinery store element of the new Wolfson Tree Management Centre.

I spent a few days with Pete Eyles and his team, learning more about the process, getting involved in marking out timbers and even having a go at using some power tools and hand tools.

Pete is keen that staff and volunteers have a chance to learn more about timber framing, and dedicated a week of his schedule to hosting a number of us from different teams around the arboretum.

During the time we spent onsite, we worked on timber for one of the gable ends of the building. There were a number of personal highlights for me, including marking out timbers and using a plumb line to make sure the cuts that would be made worked with the natural ‘wobble’ of the timbers they would sit alongside; having a go with an electric morticer to cut a mortice in one of the roof beams of a gable end and using some lovely sharp hand tools to finish a tenon to fit into the mortice joint (no doubt Pete’s team will have cast a critical eye and expert hand over this by now to make sure the work is up to standard!)

It was great to spend time with colleagues and volunteers I don’t usually work with, working as a team to get our heads around some of the tricky concepts involved in timber framing – it’s a surprisingly accurate process which Pete, with his 28 years of experience, made look simple!

Pete’s quest for accuracy is for good reason. As well as giving the building a neat and tidy finish, the junctions of the building are made from galvanised steel – these parts are made very accurately, and the team have to ensure the wooden components will fit together with them perfectly.

Timber framing may be an ancient skill, but a structural engineer is involved the whole way through the process, specifying amongst other things the dimensions of timber and the grade, or quality, which is used. Much of the timber for the machinery store is of the highest structural grade possible and, we’re proud to say, a large proportion of this comes from Westonbirt, removed as part of the routine management of the tree collection here.

Take a look at the picture gallery below to see images from the course.

It is anticipated that the first of the gable ends will be raised into position very soon. Watch this space for an update!

Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer

Westonbirt Project update

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Fundraising for Phase Two of the Westonbirt Project is now complete. Work has begun on the STIHL Treetop Walkway and the Wolfson Tree Management Centre, which will give visitors an exciting new perspective on trees and allow us to better care for the arboretum’s important collection.

Temporary road
Work is underway on the STIHL Treetop Walkway and contractors, Speller Metcalfe, have been creating a temporary stone access track to limit the impact of the construction vehicles. The access track will be used by mini diggers for the foundations, and for dumpers and the crane. Once the walkway is nearing completion they will remove this track and reinstate it with top soil.

Please keep your dog on a lead
During the construction of the Treetop Walkway, an area around the work will be designated as a ‘dogs on-lead zone’ – you’ll find this construction zone marked on the map in the summer edition of the Westonbirt Magazine and in the summer seasonal guide leaflet, which can be picked up from the Welcome Building.

We’d like to say a big thank you to all of our dog-walking visitors for abiding by signs requesting that dogs are put on leads for a short time during their visit, thus making sure the arboretum remains a safe an enjoyable place to visit and work in as we see these exciting changes take place onsite.


Over at the site of the Wolfson Tree Management Centre, the carpenters have used a 500mm x 300mm piece of timber to create the first “king post”, one of five in the new machinery store.


This image shows two members of staff from Westonbirt’s Tree Team looking into the construction site, and what will eventually become their new base at the arboretum. This is where visitors will be able to look through at the new viewing area which will bring them closer to the work we do to care for our trees.


This image shows timber sourced here at Westonbirt and from the Longleat estate laid out as fabrication gets underway on the timber frame.

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

Tree Management Centre and other updates!

Thursday, April 30th, 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. There’s also a lot of other work going on as we start the construction of the STIHL Treetop Walkway and continue our programme of boundary restoration.

The timber for the Wolfson Tree Management Centre has been graded to test its structural strength. This is based on a number of factors including the type of timber, the number of knots and where the knots are.

If you’re around Didmarton Grove in Silk Wood next week, you’ll see more timber being milled by Alastair Williams.

Graded timbers

The timber framers have moved some of the graded timbers into the new yard. They have laid these out in position so they can prepare the ends of the timber ready for joints and connections.

Laid out timbers

Elsewhere, Speller Metcalfe have been on site carrying out additional surveys for the STIHL Treetop Walkway. Work is going on behind the scenes to finalise the details ready for fabrication so we can start digging holes for the foundations.

The Walkway legs are being machined as we speak and there will be more to follow on this in the next blog!

You can also expect to see new metal estate fencing going in during May, as we replace the timber post and rail fencing which runs up the hill from Skilling Gate and along the access road towards the Forestry Commission offices. The new fencing will match the traditional estate fencing you see as you drive into the arboretum.

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre: An Update

Friday, April 10th, 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.

We have just moved five 20 metre long pine beams to the new Tree Management centre yard. This timber all came from Westonbirt and was hand hewn from the round to a beam in November.

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The timber was moved from Down Gate to the new yard using a tractor and a trolley and was escorted on its journey.

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Despite the large open space of the new yard it took careful manoeuvring to move the large beam (one of five) into position.

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The beams are kept off the ground by propping them on ‘sticks’. When the beam was lowered into position it was incredible to see how much the timber flexed. At the time I was a little bit panicked by the thought of the timber snapping!

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The first of five beams in position. Carpenter Oak and Woodland, the contractors will start on site on Monday and will be creating the new machinery store using this timber.

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

Testing! Testing!

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Come to Westonbirt on the 8th and 9th of April and you can help us to user test our brand new app!

Westonbirt App visual

We are especially looking for people aged 12-21 who have a smart device (iOS or Android) to take part. The app allows you to create a new arboretum adventure with challenges along the way.

Participants can use the app on one of two specially created trails (one in Silk Wood and one in the Old Arboretum, which is a dog-free zone) and then tell us what they really think in exchange for a hot drink and a crème egg!

Not in the age bracket? Don’t worry; you can still have a go at the app! Look out for the app testing banner and a member of staff as you enter through the Welcome Building, for more information. We’ll help you download the app and get started on your adventure!

We look forward to seeing you there for some tree challenges!

Susanna Byers, Interpretation Support Officer

New life and old traditions

Monday, March 9th, 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 individual visitors.

A group of young people around a camp fire

Its been a busy time in the coppice coups at Westonbirt this winter with the Community Coppice Programme. Almost 50 teenagers have now swapped their pristine trainers for green wellie boots and endured rain, and even snow, to bring new life into one of the derelict coppice coups off Willesley Drive.

The Battle of the Bramble is nearing an end with just a few rogue tendrils holding out against the onslaught of loppers that has rained down on them. Hazel, holly, field maple and ash, all of which have been quietly going about their own business of growing for the last 80 years, have been felled and processed into bean poles and faggots, pea sticks and hedge stakes.

Coppicing in Silk Wood

But what may at first glance look like a scene of destruction, is already springing back into life. It seems strange to cut down a tree to help it grow but that is really what coppicing is all about. The arrival of spring will stimulate a vigorous regrowth of multiple stems from the remaining stump, which will quickly flourish into trees again.

Bluebells, orchids and Arum lillies are beginning to poke their heads above ground, and the increase in sunlight now reaching the woodland floor will soon awaken wood anemone, primrose and hopefully violets. More wild flowers means more butterflies and the birds that feed on them and their larvae. And before long, the biodiversity of the once derelict coppice is thriving once more.

And what about the wellie wearing teenagers? They are helping to keep alive centuries-old traditional skills; learning about managing the woods, charcoal burning, carving spoons and making faggots.

Time for contemplation

But they are also taking away a lot more. They have learnt perseverance when lighting a fire in the rain. To take risks to try something new and to manage risk when felling a tree. To work as a team by looking out for each other’s safety and wellbeing and to break down a task between them to make it more manageable. They have learnt to trust themselves with sharp tools and that others have trust in them. And for me, most importantly, they have learnt to explore and discover and be amazed by the world around them.

Karen Price, Community Youth Officer

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre: An Update

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

The new yard is now complete!

The new yard
This is a photo taken from the new viewing area location where visitors will be able to view the Tree Team at work.

The new yard

This photo shows the completed vehicle wash-down ready for the jet wash and scrubbing brushes! The temporary fencing around the new yard will soon be replaced with a solid timber fence with a viewing section into the yard.

We are about to appoint a contractor including timber framers who will build the large ‘machinery store’ building using the timber from Westonbirt, which was hewn and milled on site. Work will begin in April. See the artists’ impression below showing a 3D model of the timber frame.

Superstructure of Machinery Store_3D Image

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre: An Update

Friday, January 30th, 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.

The foundations and floor slab are now complete for the new machinery store. The contractors have now started work on the drainage and completing the new yard.


This is a photo taken from the edge of the new yard marked out with a timber edge. Drainage channels form a boundary around the new building to protect it from heavy rainfall and to ensure any rainwater runs along the channels and pipes to a soakaway.


This is a photo of the first section of the new yard which has been finished. This area will become the tree team’s new vehicle wash down and fuel fill up point, their own a miniature fuelling station! The waste water and any potential spills of oil or diesel will drain along the new channel, where it is then filtered by a very large oil interceptor tank, see photo below. This tank holds any leaked oil and fuel which we can then remove safely.


The new yard and building floor slab have been created with a very high level of care and attention to detail although the brush finish across the site has been created by using just a brush and some rope!


Sophie Nash, Project Manager

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre: An Update

Tuesday, 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…