Archive for May, 2012

Tree Champions: High Jump, by Westonbirt’s learning and participation team

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

From 6 – 8 June, Westonbirt’s learning and participation team will be hosting the Tree Champions family event. The event will include a trail around some of our own Olympic champions – our trees and shrubs – as well as some great Olympic-themed craft activities with a woody twist! Here, the team reveal some of the Tree Champion facts you can discover at Westonbirt…

Sapphire Dragon Tree

Paulownia-tomentosa-0704260
The sapphire dragon tree is one of the fastest growing trees in the world. It can grow 10cm high in one week and reach a height of 6m in its first year!

Trees make their own food (and oxygen) through a process called photosynthesis and growing this fast requires a lot of food. As a result this tree produces 3-4 times more oxygen during photosynthesis than any other known species of tree.

It is named for its sapphire flowers with yellow centres that bloom for up to six weeks in spring.

Useful links
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum
More about Westonbirt’s family events

Tree Champions: 40m Sprint, by Westonbirt’s learning and participation team

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

From 6 – 8 June, Westonbirt’s learning and participation team will be hosting the Tree Champions family event. The event will include a trail around some of our own Olympic champions – our trees and shrubs –  as well as some great Olympic-themed craft activities with a woody twist! Here, the team reveal some of the Tree Champion facts you can discover at Westonbirt…

Bamboo

bamboo-1309508851h0V
Bamboo is a woody grass.

There are about 1,000 species, ranging from small plants to giants that can reach 40m tall, and it only takes four to five years for bamboo to grow to full size.

Growing at up to 91cm a day, some species of bamboo are the fastest growing plants in the world.

Bamboo with an 8 inch / 20cm diameter stem can reach 80ft / 24m in a two month growing season!

Useful links
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum
More about Westonbirt’s family events

Hidden voices: Two visits – one crazy, one productive, by Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Monday, May 28th, 2012

‘Hidden Voices’ is an inspiring project being run by that participation and learning team at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, engaging community groups in environmental issues. The Macular Disease Society, Asian women’s group, Awaz Utaoh, and Bristol Drugs Project will develop their personal connections with Westonbirt and ‘raise their voices’ to show why an arboretum may be relevant to their lives.

The past few weeks have been very busy indeed and we have hardly had time to update our side of the blog, despite lots happening here at Westonbirt Arboretum.

We had a fairly challenging day on the 9th of May when on the morning of the Awaz Utaoh visit we discovered that local work in the village of Westonbirt meant we had no electricity on site (and the knock on effect of no running water too) for the entire day.

Despite this, we managed, with the help of a petrol stove to make everyone a cup of tea, used buckets of water to wash hands and just had to cope without flushing toilets! The group went on a trailor ride around Silk Wood, at which point it started to rain fairly heavily – photo evidence below!

By the end of the day everyone had had a chance to dry off in our undercover area and the ladies made some beautiful painted coasters using Westonbirt wood and had a tree food tasting session which was greatly enjoyed! Elderflower cordial was the definite favourite.

The second visit on the 17th of May was with the Bristol Drugs Project. The group did some creative writing / photography and a little natural art with Chris and continued with their Laurel coppicing in the other half of their day. The group were very enthusiastic about the felling of the Laurel (and became highly efficient at it) which was reflected in their feedback at the end of the day!

And as a final note, I can’t resist sharing this beautiful poem one of the BDP participants wrote whilst working with Chris on creative writing in the arboretum:

The tiny wren playing hide and seek,
The tree lined path it’s secrets keep,
The inner child in me awakes
and makes a chain of daisies,

The connection to the earth is strong,
Among these trees with shadows long,
It grounds and calms my healing soul
and silences the crazies.

Fallen branches in the grass,
Like antlers from a deer,
It’s easy to imagine now,
The fairies playing near.

And lying here on dampened grass,
I’m hypnotised by music,
I feel the turmoil slowing now,
The trick is not to lose it!

June – what a month to look forward to! by Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer

Friday, May 25th, 2012

We in the Marketing Department have been taking stock of everything that is forthcoming in June, and it looks pretty exciting.

2Spring
Of course we will kick off with an extra long Bank Holiday weekend in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee, from Saturday 2 to Tuesday 5 June.

At Westonbirt, we will be offering a guided walk on each of the four days of the Bank Holiday weekend. Our knowledgeable volunteer guides will take you on a trip around some of the highlights of our world-class tree collection.

The walks will take place at 2pm each day, and are free after admission. Although you don’t need to book, you should pick up a ticket from the Great Oak Hall on the day to secure your place as the walks are very popular.

As well as learning some great tree facts, many of our guided walks have laughs along the way – it is the infectious enthusiasm of our volunteers that does it!

Westonbirt-picnic-credit-Rob-Cousins
The Forestry Commission in England is also inviting people to come and join sites around the country for a Jubilee Forest Picnic on Sunday 3 June. Westonbirt has some lovely picnic areas to enjoy and you can even download some special Jubilee Forest Picnic invitations on the Forestry Commission website.

web_Westonbirt_family_activity_credit_Paul_Groom2
There are also jubilee themed activities to download – make yourself a leafy crown, or find a 60-year-old tree!

Creative Coterie Image 2
Fingers crossed that the weather will hold out for the weekend. Whether you are trying to find shelter from the sun or the rain, the Great Oak Hall will be a must-visit, with the Creative Coterie exhibition taking place from 1 – 6 June.

Westonbirt family trail-resized
Especially for families, we’ll be running with an Olympic theme from 6 – 8 June, as the learning and participation team take a look at Westonbirt’s very own Tree Champions. Move over Usain Bolt!

If you’ve got a tree-mad Dad, then the perfect Father’s Day treat could be a visit to Westonbirt – lunch in Maples Restaurant followed by a free guided walk at 2pm could be just the ticket.

Concerts 2010_credit Rob Cousins
We’ve also got three sold out Live Music events happening in June, so Westonbirt’s staff will be busy getting organised for Will Young, Plan B and Madness.

STEPS 2011 approved
If you’ve missed out on tickets for that weekend, don’t despair! We have tickets remaining for our July acts: The Wanted, Alfie Boe and his orchestra and Steps.

There are dozens of events happening beside this, and summer is truly in the air – we’ve seen spring progress and the tree collection and historic landscape is looking at its very best. Enjoy!

Useful links
Westonbirt’s June event listings
Join the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum
More information about Forestry Commission Live Music

Spring Colour Watch Blog: bright is beautiful, by Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Victory Glade rhododendrons
Take a look back over the previous twelve weeks of this year’s Spring Colour Watch Blog, and you’ll see a succession of bold colours.

1.Circular Drive2. Circular Drive
From the earliest days of spring, we saw large pink blooms amongst the bare branches of the magnolias. Now, the arboretum is a very much greener place. Leaves are emerging on the oak trees around Circular Drive, providing a lush backdrop to the flame-coloured rhododendrons and deep tones of the bluebells.

3. Circular Drive4. Circular Drive
Add a blue sky to the mix and you’ve got quite a kaleidoscope. There are some great views to been seen around the arboretum as the leaves fill out the outline of the landscape.

5. View Circular Drive6. View Savill Glade
Much of this was carefully planned by the arboretum’s original creators from the 1840s onwards. They were following W. S. Gilpin’s picturesque principles of landscape design: picturesque it certainly is and much of the Forestry Commission’s work at Westonbirt today is carefully planned to continue this.

7. Rhododendron Nero8. Rhododendron Barbara Wallace
The biggest of the rhododendrons continue to emerge. Rhododendron ‘Nero’ on Loop Walk and Rhododendron ‘Barbara Wallace’ on Circular Drive look particularly good in the sunshine – we’ve had plenty of that this week!

9. Acer Glade10. Acer Glade
11. Acer Glade12. Acer Glade
Some of Westonbirt’s best loved trees, the Japanese maples from which we take our logo, also sing out in the sun. Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum is a great place to explore with a camera, with leaves which are large and golden, small and red or feathery and green. Take a look at last week’s blog to see how the maples in Silk Wood compare.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

A walk into the unknown, by Ben Oliver, Learning and Participation Manager

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

We’ve always known that we have bats at Westonbirt – but we’ve never really gone out looking for them.

Gloucestershire Bat Group - Miranda Winram
Previous bat walks have recorded pipistrelles and the odd Daubentons over the dewpond. Staff have found long-eared and horseshoe bats hanging in the tree team toilet. And a harp trap project last year recorded the rare Bechstein and also a whiskered bat. But this was really the sum total of our knowledge.

Was this all the species we had? Where did they fly in the arboretum? We didn’t really have answers to these questions… but then looking for small quick flying mammals at night in woodland is a bit like needles in haystacks.

However, thanks to the combined efforts of Gloucestershire Bat Group (GBG) and Forestry Commission staff (who ensured GBG members didn’t get lost) we now have a much better picture.

Assembling around 8.30pm last night seems a bit odd when you’ve only just left work – but all of us were quite excited as to what we might find (and truth be told a little nervous that we might not find much!)

The plan was to combine essential training for GBG trainees with the first bat survey transect of the arboretum using Anabat detectors. These remarkable gizmos record bats echo locating as they navigate in flight. Because different bat species echolocate at different frequencies and at different speeds it is possible for those in the know to identify the different species present by looking at their sonograms.

As dusk fell on a lovely warm day we split into three groups and headed out to our agreed survey areas – two covering Silk Wood and one in the Old Arboretum.

Armed with our detectors we were all soon hearing a variety of bat echo locating sounds including ‘smacks’, ‘ticks’ ,’clicks’ and ‘tocks’ – and of course the occasional raspberry; indicating a feeding burst as the bat closed in on its prey.

My group were given a particularly fine show in Sand Earth where we were able to watch bats spinning round Douglas fir lined amphitheatres.

Meeting back at Keeper’s Cottage, the GBG carefully reviewed the recorded sounds to identify the full list – and this was quite a revelation; as well as recording common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle and possibly a long-eared, the Anabats also detected serotine, noctule and two species of Myotis (the sonogram characteristics suggested Brandt’s and whiskered, but as Sandi, our bat trainer explained, she couldn’t be sure without a body). Finally another exciting possibility – a Leisler’s bat; although again this couldn’t be 100% certain from the sonogram – giving us possibly 4 new species on the night and taking the total bat species at Westonbirt to a possible 11 (out of a UK total of 18).

Whether or not it was or wasn’t a Leisler’s (or a Brandt’s for that matter) really wasn’t that important though – it was just exciting to get a glimpse of the nocturnal activities taking place on site that we had previously never really known about. And as David from the GBG said not knowing precisely provides the perfect excuse for some mist netting surveys.

Many thanks must go to the Gloucestershire Bat Group for coming out – we very much hope to continue our work together in future.

Photo: Members of the Gloucestershire Bat Group, by Miranda Winram

Useful links
Find out more about the Gloucestershire Bat Group
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum
More about wildlife and bio-diversity at Westonbirt

Spring Colour Watch Blog: maple colours to challenge autumn! by Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Maple-loop-larch
The current red and pink leaves of some of Westonbirt’s Japanese maples tease of autumn colour – but the sea of bluebells underneath reminds us that it is spring.

Japanese-maple-bluebells-SiBluebells-Maple-loop-Silk-W
Westonbirt Arboretum is known across the world for its autumn colour, particularly of the Japanese maples, but a spring walk here offers a different insight to these trees.

Maple-loop-larch-Silk-Wood-Maple-loop-Silk-Wood-16-May
Take a walk around the Japanese Maple Collection and Maple Loop in Silk Wood and you’ll see a mix of lush green, dark red and bright pink maple foliage. What makes this picture even more stunning is the carpet of bluebells underneath.

Maple-Silk-Wood-16-May-2Maple-larch-Silk-Wood-16-M
Some of the best maples for spring colour include Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, a large shrub with deep purple leaves in spring and summer; Acer palmatum ‘Deshojo’, with vivid red spring leaves and Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’ with golden-yellow spring leaves.

Maples have been selectively bred over many hundreds of years specifically to bring out these wide variations in colour. Some have been selected to give a great autumnal show of colour, whilst others have been selected to provide the bright fresh spring display we can see at Westonbirt at the moment.

The other benefit of this great variety is that maples come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, to suit all gardens and tastes. Westonbirt Plant Centre has great choice of acers which you may find hard to resist having seen in the collection – make sure you pop in when you visit.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Spring Colour Watch Blog: glorious trees, by Gina Mills, Marketing Officer

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Dove Tree branch

Spring colour is abundant amongst the tree collection at the moment.

Dove Tree 2Dove Tree 3Dove Tree 1
Main Drive is a good place to start and is home to some great specimens of Davidia involucrata, also known as the Dove Tree or Handkerchief Tree because of the white bracts that surround the small spherical flowers.

Red Horse ChestnutHorned maple
Along the way, look out for the flower spikes of Aesculus x carnea, or Red Horse Chestnut (pictured above left). The flowers are just starting to bloom and should be looking good this weekend if the forecasted good weather comes to fruition.

Also look out for the Horned Maple, Acer diabolicum (above right). The flowers look like bright green and red tassels.

KatsuraCornus kousa
If this week’s weather has put you in any doubt about spring’s arrival, you need look no further for reassurance than this Cercidiphyllum Japonicum (known as Katsura, pictured above left), which has a snug coating of soft new leaves all the way along the main branches.

You’ll have to step off the path so see the first tiny bracts emerging on Cornus kousa (above right). The view below was also taken in this area of the Old Arboretum and should help you track it down. You could also use the interactive map.

View from Main Drive
As you can see, bluebells still feature prominently in the landscape at the moment – more unusually, white variations can also be found frequently enough not to feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Amongst cornus kousa branchesWhite bluebells
Enjoy our spring trees this weekend – it may be damp under foot but the arboretum is now a very green and leafy place.

Useful links
More information about spring at Westonbirt
Find Westonbirt’s trees on the interactive map
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Hidden Voices: three very different first visits, by Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

‘Hidden Voices’ is an inspiring project being run by that participation and learning team at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, engaging community groups in environmental issues. The Macular Disease Society, Asian Women’s group and Bristol Drugs Project will develop their personal connections with Westonbirt and ‘raise their voices’ to show why an arboretum may be relevant to their lives.

The last two weeks have been very productive for the Hidden Voices Project here at Westonbirt. We have had the initial visit for each of our three participating groups.

The Macular Disease Society were the first to visit Westonbirt and Chris led them on a sensory walk around the arboretum and created leaf sculptures using willow.

Macular first visit
The Bristol Drugs Project worked on some pratical woodland management, coppicing laurel and had a guided activity walk with hands on activities such as “meet a tree” pictured below!

meet a tree
Awaz Utaoh enjoyed seeing the spring colour in the arboretum and they worked to produce handmade paper and willow butterflies.

Awaz Utaoh first visit group
Each group has different interests and reasons for visiting the arboretum. It has been a promising start to the Hidden Voices project. We look forward to continuing our work with all of them.

Useful links
Find out more about the Communities in Nature project
Information about Westonbirt’s Learning and Participation Team

Hidden Voices: forms for all, by Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

‘Hidden Voices’ is an inspiring project being run by that participation and learning team at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, engaging community groups in environmental issues. The Macular Disease Society, Asian Women’s group and Bristol Drugs Project will develop their personal connections with Westonbirt and ‘raise their voices’ to show why an arboretum may be relevant to their lives.

Before the project could start, there was alot of work to do behind the scenes in preparation.

Consent forms adapted to the different needs of each group
Consent forms went out to groups with slight adaptations for particular needs:

* The Macular Disease Society group informed us that they find it easier to read black print on a yellow background with at least a 24 font size print.

* The Awaz Utaoh (“Raise Your Voice”) group are using their own translators to help their participants fill in the consent forms and requested tick boxes to speed the process up. They say it can take up to an hour to complete each form, making sure the group members understand what they are signing up for.

* Some of our participants may need to protect their identity so we have separated the photo and film consent from the quotes and comments. This way we can still gain valuable feedback and evidence from those group members.

Useful links
Find out more about the Communities in Nature project
Information about Westonbirt’s Learning and Participation Team