Archive for the ‘The Westonbirt Project’ Category

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.  

P8270083 P8270098

Mark Ballard

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!

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

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.

Externalworks1 externalworks2 external3
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.


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.

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!


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

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.


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!

Ladies toilets Ladies toilets Ladies toilets
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:

Mobility buggies and wheelchairs
Information desk for general enquiries
Dog tie-up

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…

All things are difficult before they become easy…

Friday, April 4th, 2014

So said the Persian poet Saadi. I don’t know what experience he had of running a visitor attraction during a major engineering exercise, but he sounds fully prepared for the job to me!

As we get closer to the opening of the new Welcome Building and the associated car park in late June, we face the inevitable job of carrying on whilst all the various areas of work are brought together. We have avoided too much disruption to the day to day so far, but the next stage promises to be more of a challenge.

The main difference that will be immediately apparent to our regular visitors, is that it will be necessary for us to vacate the current car park. The reason for this is that the new easy-access routes from the Welcome Building to the restaurant, shop, cafe and Great Oak Hall run through the site of the existing car park. We also anticipate using the stone from the current car park to help make the base layer for the new footpath routes. This will help us to reduce the cost and also improve the environmental credentials of the build by not needing to import so many more lorry loads of material for the footpath construction.

A key part of the major works going on at Westonbirt currently have been about protecting the listed landscape of the Downs as well as the tree collection. This work will enable us to fulfil this and create a much more fitting sense of arrival into the National Arboretum.

Our team are busy putting in a diversion route for traffic and pedestrians, including constructing a temporary short stretch of road, quite a lot of fences and many, many signs. We are committed to making the visitor experience as pleasant and as comfortable as we possibly can during this stage. I think the transformation of the existing car park back into the sort of wildflower-strewn downland the Victorian progenitors of Westonbirt would have seen will be one of the most visually satisfying parts of this whole process.

It may not look too pretty at times and we are sorry for any inconvenience, but please do bear with us as we make this transition to the kind of place with the sort of facilities we can all be truly proud of.


Recreation Manager

The restoration… by Sophie Nash, Project Manager.

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Sophie Nash is Project Manager for The Westonbirt Project. She organises the logistics of the project, working with architects and project managers for various elements to deliver the works.

From early April 2014, we’ll be removing the current car park to restore the area to wildflower rich grassland.

Before - current car park After - artist’s impression of restored grassland

The relocation of car parking away from the Grade I historic landscape has been a long-term ambition of the arboretum and is supported by English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Gloucestershire Environmental Trust.

The work will involve closing the current car park so that we can remove the existing hard standing and road surfaces from the car park.

We’ll then make good the ground using soil which was removed during the construction of the Welcome Building – much more sustainable than bringing it in from elsewhere!

You may have seen this mound of soil near to the car park, waiting for the time when the restoration of this part of our landscape could begin.

We like to think of this heap of soil as our very own locally sourced ‘seed bank’ – it’s packed full of grass and wildflower seeds which are indigenous to the arboretum’s grassland.

We’ll also have a volunteer team helping to kick start the process of returning the landscape to grassland, by ‘strewing’.

Volunteer strewing

This is a process which involves cutting grass and wildflowers back with traditional hand tools, then spreading the resulting seed-packed hay across the ground so that species sourced here at Westonbirt can populate the restored area.

Restoring grassland takes time, and it will be a while before what we now know as our car park blends seamlessly into the surrounding downs landscape – though as you can see from the artist’s impression, the results should be beautiful and well worth the wait!

We’ll be working hard during the period of downs restoration work to manage alternative parking arrangements and minimise the disruption to visitors.

For more information about the downs restoration please visit the Westonbirt Project pages…

Attention friends! Find out about your new cards here!

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

In early summer, all of our members will be issued with new cards to enable entry through the Welcome Building. When you receive your new bar-coded cards, your old style cards will no longer be valid. Each member will have a new card with their name on which is not transferable. If you have not already told us your first name(s), please send it and your membership number to so that we can process your new cards.

Welcome Building artist impression

Each member parent or member grandparent will be able to bring in their own children or grandchildren (aged 18 and under) and up to three dogs.

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

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

Important for you to know

To enable smooth operations at the Welcome Building for our current members and new joiners, Forestry Commission staff at Westonbirt will have access to some information that you have already given the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum charity so that we can administer your membership. Membership personal data remains the property of the Friends, is stored by the Friends and will not be transferred to or held by the Forestry Commission. If you have any queries in this respect, please email

Jacqueline Dalton,
Charity Manager