Archive for July, 2010

A live update from the Honduras jungle, by Ben Jones, Tree Team arborist

Friday, July 30th, 2010

As part of Operation Wallacea, a series of biological and social science expedition projects, I am spending a month high in the trees of the Cusuco National Park in Honduras.

Working alongside gap year, degree and PhD level science students, my job is to use rope access and climbing techniques to aid researchers with access into the tree canopy, so they can take cuttings and record findings. The results will help inform many areas of research, such as assessing the suitability of different tree species for sustainable timber production.

Rain, thunder and lightning, followed by intense humidity are some of the difficult working in conditions here, and are unlike any I have seen before. In these conditions, we have been carrying out night time surveys and have seen a selection of really cool insects, snakes, lizards and transparent frogs! I have also seen some incredible plants, Pinus oocarpa, Carpinus tropicalanis, Drimys granadenisis, Liquidambar sp, Ilex sp, Quercus sp, and a vast amount of plants that could be absolutely anything!

The climbing is relatively straightforward, but occasionally we have to climb at altitudes in excess of 2000m, which is hard work. The food is also an experience out here – mostly rice and beans but unfortunately there is a distinct lack of meat. Today is day eight for me here and it was the first day we have been lucky enough to have some.

We have seen some beautiful places on the trip. We’ve visited and stayed in the local village. Here we are able to order food and ‘essentials’, so on Tuesday I am returning to pick up my order of coffee, roasted with cinnamon and chilli; which they said I could help pick, roast and then grind – about as fair trade as you can get.

The generator at the internet post will shortly run out of fuel, so I’d best be off. I look forward to updating you all with more when I get back!

Arborists’ Adventures by Andy Beckingham, Raef Johnson and Dan Crowley

Monday, July 26th, 2010

As members of the tree team here at Westonbirt, we are always looking to find ways to improve the management of plant collections. The experience of seeing other international collections and trees growing in their native habitat is the perfect way to find new ideas.
We put together a two-week trip to the East Coast of the U.S.A gratefully funded by The Friends of Westonbirt Travel Bursary. The tour began in Portland Maine, and ended in Atlanta Georgia. We stopped at Arnold Arboretum, New York Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Morris Arboretum, US National Arboretum, Atlanta Botanic Garden and drove through national forests of Shenandoah, Nanthala, Pisgah. Viewing trees from Skyline Drive, Blueridge Parkway, and making a special effort to visit one of the last sites of old growth hardwood forest on the East Coast. The Joyce Kilmer Memorial forest where Lirodendron tulipifera get to 9/10ft in diameter and in excess of 100ft tall.

The people that we met along the way were so enthusiastic about tree cultivation, they went to great lengths to ensure we saw everything and had all our questions answered, this meant long days, but every minute was spent learning. This trip has been an inspiring experience and has expanded our knowledge of trees and their cultivation. It has also allowed us to show some of the best American Horticulture/Arboriculture institutes what Westonbirt Arboretum is about and will allow us to collaborate on an international level with future projects. What a great trip.

Fundraising for the Westonbirt Project by Nick Healey, Project Fundraiser

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

As a new member of the team (started last week), I have been granted a rare treat as part of my induction; a behind the scenes look at the Arboretum I’d only ever viewed as a visiting tourist.

From a guided tour of the old arboretum by Hugh Angus, Head of Tree Collections; to an explanation of the tree planting, pruning and preservation policies and the revolving, five year, cyclical plan by Mark Ballard, Tree Superintendent; and then a sneak peek at the propagation work done by Penny Jones, who grows the seeds to saplings; I feel privileged to be part of such a committed and passionate team. 

Many thanks to all who have taken time out to welcome me and help me understand just how much work goes into maintaining and developing this amazing place.

My role here is to fundraise for the Westonbirt Project. I have several years’ experience in the field, having previously worked for charities, such as CLIC Sargent and more recently, the University of Exeter, helping them to deliver major capital projects through grants from Lottery and statutory bodies, trusts and foundations and major donors. I am passionate about conservation and heritage and think that the Westonbirt Project is a fantastic opportunity to engage more people with trees and enhance the experience for existing visitors.