Archive for December, 2010

Christmas magic by Julie McKellar, Events Co-ordinator

Friday, December 17th, 2010

We had a photographic evening last night, around the Christmas trail. People came from as far as Manchester. It started snowing and we thought that was it, but these photographers don’t care about the weather and off they went, tripods in tow. We had a famous photographer from the BBC speaking in the Great Oak Hall, David Noton. The hall was packed, and David was actually not very well, drinking lemsip throughout the evening. 

Well it’s the final weekend of The Enchanted Christmas.  I couldn’t believe it when it started snowing this morning, our reception is waiting for the phone calls to find out if the event is cancelled. Well it has stopped snowing for now and let’s hope it stays that way for the next 3 days, although the arboretum looks fantastic in the snow. It should be lovely this weekend, being so close to Christmas and a dusting of snow on the ground, making it a bit more magical, the kids will love it. We have a new exhibitor coming in tonight selling scented candles and bath oils, mmmm! We’ve got mince pies for the choirs and a big tin of quality street for the staff who deserve it.

What’s the difference between a shed and a barn? by Miranda Winram, Project Director

Friday, December 17th, 2010

‘What’s the difference between a shed and a barn?’ It’s a question the Planning Inspector asked the Cotswold District Council Conservation and Design Officer on Wednesday this week. We were attending the meeting set up for the Planning Inspectorate to ask us why we thought we should have received planning permission for the proposed new Welcome Building, and to ask the Council why they had refused it.

On this particular part of the discussion the Council had to concede that there was very little difference, and that they could have used the word barn instead of shed to describe the proposed building. Of course we didn’t ask the Inspector why he challenged the use of the word ‘shed’ (at these meetings Inspectors are all powerful – you do not question them about anything), but the Inspector seemed to be having some fun at this point, and we’re hoping that he felt it wasn’t a very professional planning term to have used.

We felt the meeting went well – we certainly had plenty of opportunity to put our case, and it did feel like the Council’s views and opinions were challenged more rigorously than ours. But of course they may have felt the same! As FOWA Trustee John Kendall wisely pointed out, he’s been involved in planning appeals before when he’s been sure he’s won and then the decision came back negatively.

It was certainly an interesting experience, and we were most encouraged that the audience for the meeting included a member of the public who we’d never met before and a local councillor (not unfortunately our Ward Member, Carolyn Nicole, she is opposed to the plans, and stood us up when we’d invited her to visit to the Arboretum to find out about them). Both of these people had given up their time, unsolicited by us, to come and make public their support for the Westonbirt Project and the Welcome Building.

So, the result? Well, I’m crossing everything and we’ll just have to wait and see, the decision will be with us in the next few weeks. And we’ll keep you posted of course.

Keeping up to Date by Sally Day, Database Administration

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Recently my volunteers and I have been recording potentially hazardous trees, unfortunately a number will have to be removed so I have provided a list and maps for the tree team.  After the recent work in Victory Glade, I have been busy updating my records. When the work is completely finished in the New Year I will get one of my volunteers to check the whole section. Armed with a map and lists, they will ensure that they match what is actually on the ground and let me know if any specimens need new labels.

It has been a busy time for commemorative trees, following the autumn visits and with Christmas coming up. We have also just put out 5 new benches in the arboretum, four of these are sponsored. For details of either scheme contact

The newly transcribed Mitchell Log Books  that cover the period 1927 – 1950 created a certain amount of interest. These were transcriped by volunteer Peter Walker and checked by Carolyn Gilman. Peter has now started on the 5 planting books. I am expecting him today- to deliver the second and collect the third. A Mr Chapman from Bristol has brought in some photos of work at Westonbirt in the 1920s. His father worked as a contractor for Lord Morley extracting timber from Silkwood using horses or steam tractors. The tree team have an easier job with their current kit.

The collection library has finally been catalogued and numbered and the annual check is underway. Great to have Shirley an ex librarian as a volunteer to advise and help with this.

The tree team has started the next round of planting. I have to do the same. The trees are surveyed relative to existing trees and the information passed to me. Using this I can “plant” the tree on my digital map and then details such as the section and tree number,  botanical name, year of planting  and height.  100 done but now the cold and snow have stopped the process.

Talking of the cold a daily task is to deal with the data sent to me from the Met Office. They now run the weather station at Westonbirt and collect the data remotely.  On Monday 6th Dec the temperature did not rise above -3.4C the coldest over night so far is -7.2C.