Archive for November, 2010

Getting ready for the Enchanted Christmas by Simon Hough, Events Business Manager

Friday, November 26th, 2010

It’s always a very busy time for the events team just before the Enchanted Christmas. We don’t actually put the lights up for the trail ourselves, but a huge amount of planning goes into the whole event. The big test night for the Enchanted Christmas trail was Wednesday, when many of the staff walked the trail to make sure everything was just perfect. The walk is wonderful, with many lovely new ideas and lighting effects. It always amazes me how they manage to capture so many different moods and effects in the different trees and settings. I especially like the glowing reindeer, and I think the children are going to love this feature!

Christmas chalets and food concessions are all set up, along with a very pretty Victorian-style children’s carousel. I’m hoping that these new arrivals will add even more sparkle to the Christmas atmosphere. Some good exhibitors are here as well; selling everything from jewellery and homemade Christmas cakes to local wild berry liqueur (I wouldn’t mind some of that). The chestnut man is back as well, my favourite.

Another new feature for this year is a halfway stop on the trail where Westonbirt Ice Cream will be offering trail walkers hot drinks and snacks from their stunning 1950s Airstream trailer. That should look wonderful lit up in the trees!

We’re all very excited about the opening night and having real reindeer back this year is a real treat. I’m looking forward to seeing how our visitors react to our green Father Christmas for the first time. Rose from the Plant Centre has been working hard and has made a brilliant foliage head dress for him.

The party’s over for the leaf-peepers by Simon Toomer, Arboretum Director

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Phew, it’s all over and what an autumn it’s been! The evidence of a long and glorious leaf display now lies on the ground like the spent party poppers after a wild party. The clear-up is left to the earthworms while the trees themselves get a well-earned rest until the show begins again in the spring. The 100,000 or so colour pilgrims have gone too leaving only muddy footprints and the odd woolly glove left helpfully on a low branch for the unlikely return of its owner. Among the throng were the usual photographers who left with not just memories of a great day out but their bounty of countless gigabytes-worth of gorgeous Japanese maples, recorded for posterity or to adorn calendars and e-pages across the World Wide Web. In the USA they call it leaf-peeping while in Japan this annual celebration of autumnal leaf colour goes by the name of Momijigari. But here at Westonbirt in the heart of the Cotswolds we hold our own British version, albeit with a lot of trees ‘borrowed’ from all over the temperate world.

As with every year, predictions about the likely quality of autumn colour were freely given and then selectively forgotten when confounded by what turned out to be one of the best displays for many years. The usual questions are asked about what climatic conditions conspire to conjure-up the kind of colour spectacular we saw this year. Is it the warm summer days that helped to build high sugar levels in the leaves or the cold autumn nights that slow the re-absorption of colour-producing chemicals? Whatever the answer, this fantastic demonstration of trees’ adaptation to the Earths rotation provides a wonderful way for modern urban humans to mark the turning of the seasons and bond with nature.