Archive for June, 2011

Playing around with sticks, by Ben Oliver, Learning and Participation Manager

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

We’ve finally stopped planning and started putting in our new play plans for Silk Wood.

Teds fright 2

Working on the new play pieces

It is exciting to see an idea discussed begin to take shape on the ground. The play trail in the Old Arboretum has been really successful – but a lot of visitors have said it is not quite challenging enough. And of course families with dogs can’t take advantage of it. We’re hoping to develop 2-3 new play features in Silk Wood this year and possibly a similar number next year.

The first area is Ted’s Fright – an old quarry just off Willesley Drive. Apparently a member of the tree team almost toppled a tractor into it once and got a bit of a fright (the infamous Ted). It’s secluded and a fantastic suntrap (except on wet days).

Teds fright 1

Heavy lifting!

All our play features try and use the arboretum’s inherent playfulness and landscape to best advantage and Ted’s Fright is perfect for creating some big wooden climbing frames – because from a distance you won’t even see them!

It’s also great to be able to make use of our own timber. We’re using beech, Douglas fir, oak and pine – all produced as part of our routine management. It is nice to give these grand old trees a new life even after they’ve been cut down.

I’ve drawn a plan – a pattern of tree roots made from giant trunks erupting from the ground like some kind of creature – inspired by the roots you see in jungle pictures that seem to gradually take over the place (I have a very active imagination!). There will be bits to climb on, crawl under, run along, duck behind and that’s just what I’ve come up with. Children of course will come up with a million more things to do because they’re the real play experts. 

But plans on paper don’t necessarily work when you’re working with 9 metre, 3 ton trunks of Douglas fir. The contractors soon realised that my carefully sprayed marks on the ground were really guides rather than exact measurements!

As is always the way we started well – five sticks, about 15-20 tonnes in place by lunch. We got quite a rhythm going – hitch it up on the cables, swing it round (mind out the way), drop it down, take a look, shunt it a bit to the left or right and job’s a good ‘un! But the sixth piece, a large pine with rot down one side (hence why it’s no longer upright in the collection) just did not want to play ball, and neither did the birch that just happened to be growing in exactly the wrong place. Much cursing followed as we hitched, re-hitched and re-hitched as we slowly walked this giant into place, one end at a time.

After two and a half hours we finally called it a day. The piece will just have to be about 2 inches out of place – see if you can spot it….

Setting the stage for Live Music, by Simon Hough, Events Business Manager

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

It’s that time of year again unbelievably – the week before Westonbirt’s first Live Music concert weekend when it’s all hands on deck to get the site ready for thousands of music fans.

Approximately 60 people will be involved in the set up over the week, installing the stage, sound and light systems, marquees, fences and toilets, setting out the car park – the list goes on.

Rigging the stage

Rigging the stage

The first thing to go in is the stage, as it’s the biggest structure and takes the longest to be built. Also, there are lots of sound and light systems to be installed and the sound engineers need at least one full day to do that. The location of the stage is also the most critical thing. We have the arena digitally mapped to give the best sound coverage, so we have to locate the stage and its associated speakers first and build everything else around it.

Next to be installed are the beer coolers! We have two large containers that have been converted into giant chillers and they are installed behind the bar location. We need to give these two full days to settle and reach the correct temperature before the beer can be delivered, so it’s important to get them set up early.

The team at work

The team at work

The smaller structures like marquees are next. These house a lot of the support crew, the catering and their equipment. The fencing, toilets and setting out the car park into neat rows and erecting all the signs all happen over the next few days. Most of the work is done by specialist contractors, but the local Forestry Commission team have lots of roles to play during this time, assisting and supervising the contractors.

We hope to finish the build by Thursday morning, so that we have a day spare should anything unforeseen happen. Sometimes some equipment is delayed getting onto site from a previous event and this can delay things.

Of course this will all happen seamlessly so that you can enjoy the concerts in the beautiful surroundings of the arboretum – so if you haven’t yet got your tickets, visit!

The result! Happy concert goers

The result! Happy concert goers