Archive for the ‘The Westonbirt Project’ Category

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…

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