Archive for June, 2012

The complete Treefest music line-up, by Jon Ponting, 4014 Project

Monday, June 25th, 2012

The 4014 Project brought fantastic musical variety and talent to Treefest in 2011. They’ll be returning this year to work their magic, sourcing the best local local singers and musicians – Jon Ponting from 4014 shares some of what they’ll be bringing to this year’s festival.

Live Music at Treefest
With more than thirty sets scheduled on the 2012 Treefest music stage, we’re bringing you a fantastically varied mix of talents over the three days, while keeping to our remit of melodious, local folk and acoustic artists.

Highlights include The Roving Crows who have not one but two Irish Music Awards for their original Celtic foot-stomping sound. The awards might be Irish, but the Crows are most definitely Gloucester based.
We’ve got a large selection of soloists including Gaz Brookfield whose tales from his Westcountry exploits and incredibly catchy and real; the Lonely Tourist is a Bristol based Glaswegian who you may have heard on Radio 2 or 6Music in recent months.

For those of you who enjoyed the music last year, we’ve asked a handful of artists to come back for a second year. These repeaters include the Grubby Jack trio with their distinctive folky roots sound; Talis Kimberley performed her bizarre and wondrous tales last year, she’ll be back with her full band; the Swindon based Bateleurs are coming back to Treefest – with an additional band member and new EP to share with you.

We’re also mixing in some Americana and country sounds with the likes of Tetbury’s Heather Bristow, Blind River Scare and Somerset’s very own Southern Folk duo.

But we’re not stopping there- we want to showcase a couple of more unique sounds, such as the rare acoustic metal sound of Bristol’s Oxygen Thief, and the bizarre-yet-perfectly matched Cirencester duo of world folk guitarist Dylan Qioniwasa and local rap artist Pep “SneakZ” Bell.

And that’s about as close to my 300 word limit as I’m going to go – but if you want to see the complete Treefest musical line-up for 2012, complete with timings, pictures, weblinks and descriptions, go onto and click on the Treefest links.

Useful links
Visit the Treefest website for more info and great value early bird tickets:

Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum go free to Treefest:
Find out how to become a member…

The 4014 Project:

Live Music is here! by Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

The Forestry Commission’s Live Music programme arrives at Westonbirt Arboretum this weekend (22-24 June). Will Young performs on Friday, Plan B on Saturday and Madness on Sunday.

Credit Westonbirt Arboretum_Simon Hough_2
All will also have great support acts to get the crowd warmed up (probably even more necessary seeing that we aren’t exactly experiencing the warmest of weather!)

We have had several gig-goers asking us if the concerts will go ahead despite the recent rain, and the answer is yes.

Our Live Music team monitor conditions very carefully, taking into account rain, wind and their combined effects.

Each year the team look at how the site could be improved and have invested in new equipment to help minimise the impact of wet weather.

For example, extra track mats and ground protection is in place around the stage and in busy areas. The new track road across the overflow car park area, created as part of the Westonbirt Project’s developments, will also help protect the Grade I Registered landscape and ease muddy conditions.

Of course public safety comes first, which is why if conditions do change and become unsuitable for the concerts to take place, we will let you know as soon as possible via our website, Facebook and Twitter sites.

And one last question being asked this week…will Westonbirt be showing England’s Euro 2012 match on Sunday? The answer is no, the concerts are a whole evening of live music, from the support acts who take to the stage at around 7.30pm through to the main artists.

For more information on what to bring and what is or isn’t allowed in the arena, you can check our Forestry Commission Live Music FAQs.

Useful links
Buy tickets for July’s live music dates at Westonbirt Arboretum
Friday 20 July: The Wanted
Saturday 21 July: Alfie Boe
Sunday 22 July: Steps

Big carving is back at Treefest, by Ben Oliver, learning and participation manager

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Treefest is Westonbirt’s signature summer event. Our 2011 visitor survey showed that you wanted more big wood carving at Treefest, so we’re working with a select group of carvers for this year’s event. Here, Ben Oliver, who has commissioned the work, tells more about why this year’s big carvings will be staying at Westonbirt for famililes to enjoy…

I have always loved mucking about in woods. Even though as an adult I’m supposed to know better, I still enjoy playing around when no-one’s watching or I think I can get away with it (young nieces are a great excuse).

This is one of the many reasons I love working at Westonbirt – I get to encourage people to get up close and personal with trees for a living!

Unfortunately today many children don’t have the natural play opportunities I enjoy. Its unfortunate for two reasons – firstly because it is great fun, but secondly (and perhaps more importantly) because there is widespread evidence that the strongest environmental sensibilities in adulthood stem from childhood experiences of playing in nature.

But we’re aiming to change this!

I’m particularly excited about this year’s Treefest carving as for the first time the sculptures produced will be staying at Westonbirt.

Having watched children play on the finished sculptures at the end of previous events, it has always struck me that these beautiful carvings are ideal for play.

Three carefully selected sculptors will turn a Douglas fir and oak trunk produced through our routine management into a playful work of art – giving it a new life in the arboretum.

Each finished piece will have a different theme and play opportunity:

‘Knock on Wood’ will be a musical sculpture for people to play (for good luck of course); ‘Natural Treasures’ is based on Van Gogh’s quote “If you love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere” and aims to encourage families to share their interesting natural finds for others to enjoy; and lastly ‘What time is it, Mr Wolf?’ will provide an ornately carved chair for the wolves to sit while the sheep hide!

After Treefest each will move to its new home in Silk Wood for visitors to discover and enjoy – look out for the updated play trail map in autumn.

Useful links
Treefest: Big carving is back!
For families: Westonbirt’s play trail
Friends membership: great value for families
Summer at Westonbirt: kids go free 20 July – 31 August!
Treefest: great value early bird tickets

Showcasing local live music at Treefest, by Jon Ponting, 4014 Project

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

The 4014 Project brought fantastic musical variety and talent to Treefest in 2011. They’ll be returning this year to work their magic, sourcing the best local local singers and musicians – Jon Ponting from 4014 shares some of what they’ll be bringing to this year’s festival.

Royal Oak
It was nearly a year ago that The 4014 Project made its first ever appearance at Treefest… bringing with it a selection of the finest local musicians.

And since last August we’ve received compliment upon kind word with new friend requests and followers, all saying how much you loved last year’s Treefest line-up. It’s fantastic when a festival the size of Treefest takes a chance with something new, and we’re so glad we helped to create such a successful weekend for the arboretum .

Onwards and upwards, and we’ve got more than thirty musical acts taking to the Royal Oak stage in 2012, ranging from last year’s popular folky poppers, the Bateleurs, to the Celtic foot-stomping award-winning Roving Crows.

No lie-ins for us- in order to cram in all this extra music, we’re kicking off the sets at 11am, and not stopping until 10pm on both the Saturday and Sunday, plus six hours of music on Monday afternoon. I guess we’ll be sleeping on Tuesday then!

We know some of you aren’t able to stay til the evening, despite how much we’d love you to , which is why we’re not saving all the best acts ‘til last! We’re breaking with the usual festival tradition, and putting some of our headline acts on at lunchtime!

One thing we can guarantee hasn’t changed in any way is our commitment to keeping music local; that’s what The 4014 Project does best. All but two of the acts on this year’s bill are based within an hour of the arboretum… I even checked on Google Earth so I know it’s true!

We loved showcasing so much local music in a nationally acclaimed venue at last year’s event, and we’re more than thrilled to be doing it again in August!

Useful links
Visit the Treefest website for more info and great value early bird tickets:

Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum go free to Treefest:
Find out how to become a member…

The 4014 Project:

Westonbirt Arboretum Downs Vegetation Survey, by Jose Buckley, Wildflower Group volunteer

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

As you may be aware, Phase One of the Westonbirt Project involves restoring the downland grassland area where currently the visitor car park is.

An effective way of enhancing grassland biodiversity is through a method called Hay Strewing.

Hay is cut from selected donor sites after flowering and spread over the recipient site.

The seed of the species present within the hay fall out and this enables re-colonisation.

Knowledge of which species are present on the donor sites provides information on which species to expect on the recipient site and aids future management planning.

At Westonbirt, the donor sites, acting as a local seed bank, will be the already species-rich downlands and the recipient site will be the current species-poor car park area.

In preparation for this, Matt Parratt from Forest Research, together with volunteers, conducted a Downs Vegetation Survey from 11 to 13 June 2012.

A second survey will be undertaken from 30 July to 1 August 2012 to identify later flowering species.

A soil survey will also be undertaken sometime during August. After all the information has been analysed, it should be possible to classify the habitat types present.

It was intended to use quadrats as a survey method for all three days but on Monday 11 June the English weather put a stop to that.

It was pouring down with rain all day to the extent that one volunteers jacket started to foam (next time, use less soap in the washing machine!) and mini streams developed on the roads.

blog picture 1blog picture 2
Consequently, the team walked through the site instead and recorded species identified in situ amongst which was one of Westonbirt’s special wildflowers, Ophrys apifera (Bee orchid).

Recording speciesblog picture 6
Samples of unidentified species were put in plastic bags for further investigation in the common room.

blog picture 3In the common room
The team was not totally confident with the identification of a grass species Brachypodium (False broom). It is thought to be B. pinnatum but there is a chance that it could be B. rupestre.

The sample will be pressed and forwarded to the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) grasses referee for further identification.

Tuesday 12 June was drier and quadrats were used. Within the quadrats the species were identified, recorded and percentage cover noted. In addition to that, other factors such as Grid reference, slope, and aspect were also noted. The advantage of the quadrats over a ‘walk through’ is that it provides more focus and it is less likely that a species is overlooked.

Identifying species within a quadratSurveying near to existing car park
QuadratVolunteer group
On Wednesday 13 June large areas of grassland, the areas where the concerts are generally held, were mown before it could be surveyed. The mowing machines beat the surveying team!

The site of the new car park was also successfully surveyed. The top soil from this area is likely to be reused on the existing car park, preserving the local seed bank.

Lower slopesSurveyed area
The site had a lovely diverse section at its lower, steep and dampish part which may, in places, be kept as it is. Species found in the lower section included Iris pseudacorus (Yellow flag iris), Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm), Dipsacus fullonum (Wild teasel), Cirsium eriophorum (Woolly thistle), Conium maculatum (Poison-Hemlock). These are not normally found within the rest of the arboretum.

The team looks forward to the report with the full species list and percentage coverage. Revisit this blog for further updates.

And, as a last note, using quadrats may leave strange impressions in the Westonbirt meadows and are not to be confused with signs of extra terrestrial activity. You may encounter these again in August.

Stange impressions

Useful links:
The Westonbirt Project
Downs restoration and car park

Cooking for you at Treefest, by Charlotte Pike

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Charlotte Pike is the founder of the award-winning Go Free Foods and a regular contributor to Hello! Magazine’s food blog. She cooks great tasting treats with a diverse range of ingerdients and will be cooking live in the Food Hall at Treefest. Here, she looks ahead to the month of August and what she’ll be cooking at the festival…

Charlotte Pike
August is one of my favourite months of the year food-wise. It is a month in which to enjoy and make the most of fresh, local produce. August is a month when cooks and growers are almost overwhelmed with an abundance of delicious fruit and vegetables.

Cooking with local seasonal ingerdients
I’m incredibly excited about cooking for you at this year’s Treefest event, and there could not be a better month of the year for this event to take place. I’ll be making the most of local, seasonal produce in my demonstration, and showing you some delicious ideas that you will be able to try at home for yourselves.

We don’t know what the weather will be doing this August, do we? The wonderful thing about this time of year however, is that you can make the most of the seasonal produce and adapt it to what you want to eat. If the weather is hot, as it should be, then there are endless possibilities with lovely light salads, using fennel, cucumber, chicory and watercress which are all at their peak at this time of year – you need not spend much time in the kitchen. But if the weather is less kind to us, you can still enjoy the flavours of August – I like to make a lovely light marrow stew, with generous quantities of garlic, tomato and seasonal beans. Served with some fresh local fish, it is heavenly.

Here in Gloucestershire, we are spoilt for choice on a culinary level, and I do make a point of trying to source as much of my food as possible from local growers and farms, and also some from the wild. The local hedgerows are laden with elderflower, cobnuts and blackberries throughout the summer months – just keep your eyes peeled and you will find plenty of food for free. If you see a car driving slowly down the lanes, with a driver staring intently at the fruits and flowers in the hedgerows, do wave – it may just be me!

I look forward to seeing as many as you as possible at Treefest this year.

Useful links
Visit the Treefest website for more info and great value early bird tickets:

Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum go free to Treefest:
Find out how to become a member…

Charlotte Pike’s Go Free Foods:

The Westonbirt Project: New Recruits! by Sophie Nash, Project Officer

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Over the last few weeks we have recruited over 30 new volunteers!

Volunteers surveying the Downs
Some of the new recruits have already been out on the Downs in both sun and rain, working alongside Matt Parratt from Forest Research completing a baseline flora quadrat survey of the grasses and wildflowers.

They will be back out during early August to survey later season species. A blog written by one of the volunteers taking part will be posted here later this week.

We have also recruited new volunteers to survey the Downs for butterflies and bees. This new group plan to walk around the Downs during the summer in order to produce a species list. Fingers crossed for some warm summer days to encourage the butterflies and bees to come out!

New and existing volunteers will also be out from today until the end of July assisting a professional dry stone waller, who is restoring our dry stone ha-ha along Mitchell Drive.

By the end of July we will have restored and repaired over 500 metres of historic boundaries!

Useful links
More information about The Westonbirt Project

Gito the English setter trains falcons to hunt at Treefest! by Julie McKellar, Events Co-ordinator

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Treefest is Westonbirt Arboretum’s signature summer event (25 – 27 August 2012) celebrating the best of trees and nature with crafts, woodland skills, family activities, food and music. Keep your eye on the Treefest blogs to find out how our plans for this year’s festival are progressing.

This year we have invited the Black Mountains Falconry back to display their wonderful birds, and it turns out that their English setter, Gito, has taught the falcons how to hunt! Gito is always at the event, and when the birds are not being flown, he is happy to use the arena for his own entertainment, much to the delight of the children.

What’s nice about the Black Mountains Falconry is they make this a real family show by getting all ages involved. Above is a photo of children being part of the show.

This year we have also invited the medieval puppet theatre Hand to Mouth. They were a big hit at last year’s festival, and this year they have a new story “Here Be Dragons”. This is tale of George and the Dragon, told by the ageing Dragon himself, and his troupe of glove puppets.

One of children’s favourite pastimes – storytelling – and we have invited Michael Loader back, along with his wonderful moustache. Here you can see how excited the children get when Michael tells his stories. This year it is all about Tales of Indians. Tall tales, wise tales, grisly tales and humorous tales from the Indians of the Americas. Get ready to pow-wow.

Michael will be telling stories twice daily in the Family Theatre.

Last year we introduced the Medieval Village for the first time. They were very popular so we have invited them back. There will be a large village where you will be able to see demonstrations and hear about armour, weapons, arrow making, cooking and clothing. Each day there will be an archery show and you can even have a go at archery.

Useful links
More about Treefest:
Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum go free to Treefest. Become a member…
Buy great value early bird tickets for Treefest

In this blog
Black Mountains Falconry:
Hand to Mouth theatre:
Michael Loader storytelling:
Wolfshead Bowmen archery:

Looking forward to Treefest, by Jon and Louise Burrough at Peradon Organic Farm

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Peradon Organic Farm are just one of the many exhibitors who will be coming to Treefest this year. They were keen to share their excitement about this year’s event (25 – 27 August 2012) and tell us what they will be bringing to the Treefest Food Hall.

Peradon Organic Farm

We’re really looking forward to coming to Treefest to cook award winning organic burgers from our Devonshire farm, along with sausages and dry cured bacon.

You can choose either a granary or white freshly baked roll and help yourself to the delicious organic salad containing edible flowers as well as a range of sauces.

Our menu includes large Angus beef burgers and lamb and mint burgers. These are delicious burgers made from the very best meat and it shows in the taste.

You’ll also be able to buy our tender organic lamb uncooked, so you’ll be able to enjoy our meat at home too.

Our farm is family run and situated in the heart of the Devonshire countryside. It has been in the Burrough family for generations and the farm itself dates back as far as the 15th century. We have been organic for almost a decade.

Alec and Shirley Burrough have managed it for over 40 years and have a great deal of experience. Both are now in their late seventies and are still out and about farming every day – Alec can be seen on his circa 1960s Nuffield tractors and Shirley never leaves the sheep field! Jess the sheepdog is always by Shirley’s side.

In 2008 their son Jonathan and his wife Louise left their office jobs behind them to join the organic farming business. They started selling direct to customers at markets and events locally and nationwide and this has since really grown. They have two young sons, Harry aged 3 years and 16 month old George.

Useful links
Visit the Treefest website for more info and great value early bird tickets:

Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum go free to Treefest:
Find out how to become a member…

Peradon Organic Farm:

Deadly gem rediscovered, by Ben Oliver, Learning and Participation Manager

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

For a long time we assumed that all the plants growing along the edge of the Old Arboretum – parallel to Main Drive near to the Great Oak Hall entrance to the Old Arboretum – were rhododendrons, but during recent clearance work we rediscovered a calico bush (Kalmia latifolia).

Kalmia latifolia, credit Gina Mills, Forestry Commission June 2012
Today, it remains our only specimen of this species. Also known as Mountain-laurel it is native to the eastern United States and has attractive flowers ranging from light pink to white that are now in full bloom.

But beware; the plant is poisonous. Indeed it was once apparently used by native North American tribes to commit suicide. It is one of the plants (along with certain rhododendrons) responsible for ‘honey intoxication’, caused by the consumption of honey produced from the plant’s nectar. In severe cases there can be loss of coordination, slow pulse and difficulty breathing. Indeed the earliest record of rhododendron comes from Babylon in 401 B.C when the army of Xenophon were overcome after consuming honey made from Rhododendron luteum.