Archive for the ‘Volunteering’ Category

What a super celebration!

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

We wanted to do something special to mark 30 years of volunteering at the arboretum and it turned out to be a brilliant day.

Cake cutting
We had our biggest turn-out ever for a volunteer social event with 200 people taking part.

During the afternoon choices ranged from spoon carving, a wildflower walk, special tours of the Treetop Walkway construction site, or simply sitting and enjoying a catch-up with friends in the beautiful afternoon sunshine.

Volunteer award presentations
The bubbly flowed for the awards presentations where Simon Toomer (Arboretum Director) and Stephen Segar (Chair, Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum) gave out long-service badges to recognise 5, 10, 15 and 20 years of volunteering at Westonbirt – an amazing contribution.

Cake with icing volunteers
And no party would be complete without Martin’s truly superb hog roast followed by a special celebratory cake (created by Leigh Jane from our Visitor Services team) topped with icing sugar volunteers! All-in-all a really fabulous day in the very best of places – wonderful Westonbirt!

Cheryl Pearson, Volunteer Manager

Celebrating volunteering at Westonbirt

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Although we value and thank our volunteers on a daily basis, Volunteers’ Week provides an opportunity to do this publicly!

Volunteers are deeply embedded in the fabric of Westonbirt and the arboretum flourishes on their commitment. They are passionate and enthusiastic ambassadors for Westonbirt, championing community spirit and connecting visitors to the importance of trees in our lives – whilst having a thoroughly good time themselves.

Last year volunteers gave almost 25,000 hours to Westonbirt in so many ways, here are a few of the ways they help:

  • Leading 269 guided walks for 2,800 visitors (their feedback showed a 95% enjoyment rating)
  • Travelling over 2,750 miles to give 54 external talks to over 1,800 people
  • Taking 66% of Friends membership subscriptions at the welcome desk
  • Helping to propagate 4,000 seeds, cuttings, saplings and plants
  • Maintaining 18 sections of the arboretum (there are 60 in total) including 3000 trees/cages
  • Labelling 1,891 trees – 12% of our collection
  • Recording 428 butterflies (20 species), and 330 bumblebees (11 species)
  • Engaging with over 34,500 participants through schools visits and family events
  • Broadening Westonbirt’s reach to the local community by involving:
  • 232 young people (10-19yrs) from 17 organisations
  • 188 people in facilitated visits to Westonbirt
  • 274 people in offsite outreach programmes
  • 111 people in coppice woodland management
  • IMG_7354
    We send a huge ‘thank you’ to all our volunteers and wish them many more years of happy volunteering with us – Westonbirt wouldn’t be the same without them.

    Cheryl Pearson, Volunteer Manager

Restoring our ha-ha!

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Ha Ha. An expression often used to represent laughter. However a ha-ha is also a landscape design feature that creates a barrier to things such as livestock, while preserving uninterrupted views.  The name “ha-ha” derives from the unexpected and amusing moment of discovery when, on approach, the recessed wall becomes visible. Here at Westonbirt we are privileged to have a ha-ha that acts as a boundary around the Old Arboretum. A map from 1881 clearly illustrates the ha-ha, however it is estimated it was built in the 1820’s during the establishment of the old arboretum.

Currently work is being undertaken to clear and expose the wall so its condition can be assessed. The estate volunteers have been blessed with fine weather for this work as they use tools such as scythes to clear away the bramble and nettles, exposing the historically significant feature. Only hand tools are being used so as to be sympathetic to any wildlife that has made its home around the ha-ha, being careful to cause as little disturbance to the structure of the wall as possible.

Estate-Volunteers Ha Ha

Working on the Ha Ha The Ha Ha

Plans are in place for its complete restoration in the near future.

Sarah Millard, Volunteer Supervisor.

Volunteers setting the seeds of success once again, by Jacqueline Dalton, Charity Manager

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Craft Fair in the Great Oak Hall
A whopping £1,887 was raised at our Craft Fair on the weekend of 20 & 21 October!

We are immensely lucky to have the support of so many volunteers and very grateful to those who donated goods, held stalls and helped out on the day.

The hall looked so enticing with such a variety of goods; no wonder it was buzzing with activity.

We especially wish to thank Maureen Gobbett for her enthused support and contribution over many years – her planning and organising setting the seeds of success year on year.

Useful links
Find out more about the work of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum charity
Learn more about volunteering at Westonbirt
Forthcoming Great Oak Hall events
Become a Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum member

Volunteering at Treefest, by Cheryl Pearson, Volunteer Manager

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Treefest is the largest of Westonbirt’s events and involves the most volunteers over a single weekend. We’ve been inundated with requests from staff for support – everyone wants volunteers which is brilliant and means busy times ahead to organise the many different activity groups involved throughout the Bank Holiday weekend. Cheryl Pearson, Westonbirt’s Volunteer Manager tells us more about what our volunteer team will be up to at Treefest.

This is a really great opportunity for our volunteers who love getting involved in this signature event as there are so many different areas of support needed – and they really do make a difference by providing much needed help for staff plus volunteers themselves get a real buzz in helping visitors to enjoy their day to the full.

Volunteers will be needed to support the Events Team with the event set-up on Friday by greeting exhibitors as they arrive and directing them to their pitches, plus they’ll be roaming around throughout the event to answer visitor queries and explain what’s happening and when.

Learning volunteers will play a major role in helping to deliver the Plant Hunters Academy trails and crafts for families in the Great Oak Hall, and the Information Desk is going to be especially busy and so I need to ensure we have enough information volunteers in place. Graham’s raised the bar on Guided Walks this year – 5 each day! Very ambitious but they were really popular last year, and budding volunteer DJ’s are being sought to make the tannoy announcements – move over Chris Moyles.

The cookery demonstrations are new this year and sound really exciting and I’m sure volunteers will enjoy the opportunity to help out – I wonder if they’ll get any tasters?!

Friends staff are looking for fundraising help for the Tree of Dreams which was so popular last year, as well as volunteers to chat to visitors about the benefits of membership. Andy is on the case and already has some of the Wood Sales volunteers signed-up to man the tent for all 3 days plus a couple on Friday to work along side the Tree Team to get the wood ready for the event.

Well done to my volunteer newsletter editor Bernard for packing all these requests into the lively July issue – I’d better get on with making sure it’s ready for distribution on time!

Useful links
Find out more about Treefest
Find out more about volunteering at Westonbirt
Support Westonbirt by joining the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

What makes a winter wonderland? by Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer

Friday, November 18th, 2011

The answer to the question “What makes a winter wonderland?” is in no small part “Volunteers”. Along with our learning and participation staff, they’ve today started the task of transforming Westonbirt’s education centre into a winter wonderland for families visiting the Enchanted Christmas – which starts next Friday, 25 November.

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During the event evenings, our team will be working with children and families to help them create Christmas crafts, draw a picture for Santa, find out about winter customs, and learn about the history of Christmas trees.

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The setting for this will be a wonderful snowy, icicled education centre. Today our band of staff and volunteers were working together to install the textured panels which will eventually become a beautiful icy, glittering wall – a backdrop for the many Christmas trees and displays of greenery. Some of the Christmas trees will be supplied by Westonbirt’s Plant Centre when they get their delivery next week. Most will be be sold to the public, but a few are reserved for this winter wonderland. The greenery has come from the arboretum, the varied colours of our evergreens making a vibrant display.

Once the textured panels are in place a local specialist company, well known for creating festive scenes for Hollywood, will come in to make the finishing touches and flourishes which we hope will make this a magical space in the weeks running up to Christmas. This will all be supported by the wonderful creative lighting design that Westonbirt is so well known for at this time of year.

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At the same time as all of this activity, other volunteers have been working on the craft activities that will be on offer during an Enchanted Christmas, creating examples to inspire you to make your own creations and preparing the raw materials for use.

The Enchanted Christmas is open to visitors every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening from 25 November to 18 December. Find out more and buy tickets on the Enchanted Christmas pages.

Useful links
Enchanted Christmas tickets and info
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

A tremendous achievement, by Jacqueline Dalton, Charity Manager

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

This is the total raised at the Volunteer Craft Fair on 29 & 30 October! This a tremendous achievement and not surprising – you should have seen the quality and variety of the crafts……… too many to mention. So many gave their time to make their crafts, help on stalls during the day and serve refreshments – thank you all. BUT none of this would have been possible without the good steerage from Maureen Gobbett – we thank you Maureen yet again!

Great Oak Hall - venue for the Volunteer Craft Fair

Great Oak Hall - venue for the Volunteer Craft Fair

Useful links:
The work of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum charity
Volunteering at Westonbirt
Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum membership

Have you visited the new bird viewing area? by Tony Pearce, volunteer

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The workshop and wood sales team of volunteers have recently completed a new bird viewing and feeding area that is accessible to visitors seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year. The previous bird viewing area had always been in the education centre, which couldn’t be accessible to visitors without staff there to open and close the building.

The new bird viewing area, located in the Old Arboretum just off Circular Drive and near to Holly Gate, is now open to the public. The RSPB have been hosting activities and working with Westonbirt Arboretum’s visitors (and wildlife) to make the most of this fantastic new facility. 

The workshop and wood sales volunteer team are a highly skilled group of volunteers who, once a brief had been agreed, began the construction of the new bird viewing area earlier this year. Here’s a closer look at how it all came together:

Initial design proposals were prepared which fitted in with other constructed elements of Westonbirt Arboretum. The design reflects the oak frame structures of the den building play in the Old Arboretum, the Great Oak Hall and the Silk Wood Barn.

The frame was made from 125mm by 125mm oak beams and 25mm larch boards to side elevations. The roof would be made from oak shingles of random widths, hanging on oak A-frames and larch purlins and battens. The design also had to let the building team manually move and lift the frame into position, and this determined the maximum length of the beams to be around 3.5m in length.

The basic design and budget was approved in early 2011, and initial milling of the oak butts was arranged with Alistair Williams for the first weekend in February.

Mobile band saw mill located along side Waste Drive. Alistair Williams operating mill with volunteers Geoff Fisher and Laurie Moir waiting to lift off cut timber.

Mobile band saw mill located along side Waste Drive. Alistair Williams operating mill with volunteers Geoff Fisher and Laurie Moir waiting to lift off cut timber.

With the timber relocated to the workshop area, material was selected for the initial components of floor and roof plates. These required an overall length of 6.6m, so three beams were scarf together using traditional framing joints to achieve the overall length. The scarf would normally use wooden pegs, but needed steel bolts to meet health and safety regulations.

The vertical posts were positioned in the floor plate and the roof plate was then located on the top of the posts. For this we used the standard mortice and tenon joint at each end of the post. All the joints were cut by hand using 50mm chisels and mallets, as through or blind joints depending on location.

Brain Young cutting mortice

Brian Young cutting mortice

Brain Carruthers and Michael Goom inspecting a roof plate

Brian Carruthers and Michael Goom inspecting a roof plate

Laurie Moir cutting tenon in post

Laurie Moir cutting tenon in post

Michael Goom  cutting housing in tie beam for roof A frame

Michael Goom cutting housing in tie beam for roof A frame

Having determined the location of the new bird viewing area, the kit was assembled in early June. The assembly of the basic frame and the raising of the roof A-frame was completed in a weekend, with all volunteers working hard over the two days.

Basic frame structure

Basic frame structure

Basic frame with roof A frames fitted

Basic frame with roof A frames fitted

At this stage of the build a delay occurred due to a requirement for planning approval. This slowed things a bit and we were only able to fit wind braces over the next eight weeks.

Marion Wilding fitting wind brace

Marion Wilding fitting wind brace

Given planning approval, all volunteers were keen to complete the project within the September target date. The boarding of the side elevations and fitting of the window frames were completed and the roofing battens, shingles and ridge were fitted over the next few weeks. During this time we were joined by a number of new recruits to the team.

New Volunteers, Roly Holtzgrave and Peter Burden, with Michael Goom

New Volunteers, Roly Holtzgrave and Peter Burden, with Michael Goom

10_11_12_near completion (1)10_11_12_near completion (2)10_11_12_near completion
With the one way windows fitted, the facility was opened for public use from 1st October. Benches were installed, leaving access for mobility scooters to enter and exit.

Some photographers have commented on the problems of taking pictures of feeding birds through the glass. This is a problem with automatic focusing cameras which has been experienced previously. It is to be noted that access for cameras have been left in the side hurdles for the serious photographers.

We hope that visitors will see this project as one which enhances their Westonbirt experience, and that birds will appreciate the new source of food when winter arrives and insects, fruits and berries are in short supply.  

My thanks go to all of the volunteers who have supported this project with their time and effort. We are now engaged on new projects, including additional play equipment for Silk Wood and some smaller projects for the Learning Centre and Family Events. In the New Year we hope that we will undertake some additional oak framing which will take the form of shelters in the arboretum.

You could help us by donating any carpenters hand tools (chisels, planes, hand saws etc) If you have any power tools please let me have details by email to