Archive for the ‘The Westonbirt Project’ Category

Creating an adult changing room

Friday, August 28th, 2015

As part of our overall improvements to Westonbirt, including the new Welcome Building, we have planned to improve our facilities for disabled visitors. We will be creating an Adult Changing Room/Changing Place space for visitors in the main toilet block by the Great Oak Hall.

This new facility will include toilet facilities and some additional equipment and alterations such as a height adjustable changing bed and a ceiling hoist.

An image of the type of changing be we'll be installing in our new adult changing room

This should enable visitors who cannot use a standard disabled toilet such as those with motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and some older people to access the arboretum.

The number of users will be increasing as our learning team and community officers work with a number of visitors from excluded audiences.

This improvement is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

Wolfson Tree Management Centre: An Update

Wednesday, August 19th, 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 timber frame is almost ready to be lifted into its final position in mid-September. The contractors are waiting for the steel brackets to arrive so are currently preparing the cladding.

The machinery store building will be predominately clad in timber with a polycarbonate wall by the new vehicle wash down area. The cladding is being fabricated in panels so it can be lifted into position once the frame is up which helps speed up the completion of the building.

Cladding being fabricated
The cladding is fixed to large cladding rails. A frame/rig is created so that the contractors can ensure the cladding panel is the correct width ready for fixing to the timber frame.

Cladding being created to the correct size
This photo shows the packers used to create a small gap between each piece of cladding.

Packers create gaps between each piece of cladding
Some very large screws have been used to hold the large sections of timber in place!

A finished cladding panelClose-up of a finished cladding panel
A finished panel! Several different sizes of timber have been used in the cladding which should look great when in their final position.

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

STIHL Treetop Walkway: the legs have arrived!

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Almost all of the foundations are now in place ready for the legs to be craned into position. Each pair of legs has a foundation which provides stability and a firm base for the Walkway.

This photo shows one of the completed foundations. A galvanised steel plate will sit on top of each foundation; this will be held in position by the four very large bolts and nuts. So large that the contractors have struggled to find a local supplier with a large enough spanner!

A completed foundation

All of the foundations are different even for a pair of legs, this allows for the undulating ground levels and will provide extra support for the exciting features along the walkway. The photo below shows two of the foundations for crow’s nest where there will be extra legs supporting the cantilevered staircase.

Foundations for the crow's nest

We’ve reached an exciting stage; the first delivery of timber legs has arrived from Holland!

First delivery of legs arriving

The deliveries have been carefully planned to ensure the legs arrive unscathed. This is an image showing how each leg will be positioned in the lorry so each leg is protected from the lorry and from each other.

Carefully planned delivery

The legs are carefully lifted from the lorry one by one. Due to their size they are walked in to ensure they don’t swing and catch on anything as they are moved! The legs will be temporarily stored until they are ready to be craned into their final position.

Legs being lifted out of the lorry

Carefully walking the legs from the lorry

The first few legs will be lifted into position in the next few weeks once the plates are in position and the steel sections have arrived. A very large crane will be moving in to complete the first section along with other construction vehicles and materials.

Thank you for bearing with us whilst we create this exciting new experience and for placing your dogs on leads through the construction zone. It’s really appreciated and helps us and our contractors build the Walkway as safely and as quickly as possible. There will be some disruption and temporary footpath closures in the coming months. Sorry for any inconvenience but it will be worth it once you’re up high and enjoying be closer to the trees!

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

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.

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.

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

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

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!

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