Archive for August, 2012

The Big Top is up! Nearly time for Treefest! by Julie McKellar, Events Co-ordinator

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

I can’t believe it, after 12 months of working on Treefest, we are now only 4 days away.

Treefest site taking shape
It always gets more exciting when marquees start to appear, and that happened on Monday when the Food Hall and indoor craft marquees were put up, and now Cherry, Maple and Redwood Avenues are all up, in the lovely blue and white stripes.

Yesterday the Big Top arrived and it’s nearly finished. I don’t think I’ve ever stood in such a large tent, it’s going to be amazing in there listening to the bands and sipping a cold beer, pity I’m working!  

The tipee has just arrived for the children’s story telling and puppetry in the Family Theatre, and the helter skelter is half built. Tomorrow the carousel will arrive. There is a real buzz in the air every time I walk out onto the site.

But there is still lots to do. All the festival flags need to go up and I’ve lost count how many we have. We already have some up on the roadside, which look very cheerful as you drive past the arboretum.

The food hall is now very full with 4 more exhibitors coming on board recently:

Bee Mercy who are providers of raw honey. A range of rich tasting raw honey containing all the natural health giving qualities.

Cotswold Gold who produce Extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil which is grown and produced on the farm in the Cotswolds. 

Their oil has been used on stage by lots of celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver, James Martin and Raymond Blanc to name but a few. Also Raymond Blanc now uses this oil at his cooking school, must be good stuff! 

In July of this year, they won “Best Food Producer” in the Cotswold Life Food and Drinks Award.

The Spice Trail is passionate about quality herbs and spices.

They stock nearly 100 different types and this is increasing all the time, if you want it and they don’t have it they will try and source it for you.

Their herbs and spices originate from all corners of the globe from Cheshire to China, Germany to Guatemala, Canada to Croatia and not forgetting of course India, the Spice Capital of the world!!

The Kooky Kitchen produces quirky cookies and bakes with strange shapes and lots of different tastes. They will also be serving Vietnamese coffee on ice.  That’s were I’m taking my coffee break!

Useful links
Visit the Treefest website for more info:

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

Update from the RSPB at Westonbirt, by Amy Martin, RSPB information assistant

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Well the last month or so has been a busy one for the RSPB at Westonbirt! We’ve held a whole host of hands-on family events, which I hope many of you joined us on. For those who didn’t, here’s a summary…

Bug hunting
Back at the end of July we were joined by Chris Tracey from Butterfly Conservation, who helped on our guided butterfly walks. Together we took enthusiastic families into the downs between Holly Bush Gate and Silk Wood. Despite being a poor year for butterflies, we were lucky enough to see, amongst others, Ringlets, Gatekeepers and Marbled Whites. Also on display at the Bird Viewing Area was a selection of moths caught the previous night – including the Poplar Hawk Moth – a beautiful and fascinating creature!

At the start of August we held table-top pond dipping. August is a fantastic time of the year for pond life, and this gave us the opportunity to see baby newts close up, along with water boatmen, pond skaters and dragonfly larvae!

Minibeast-lovers were also given a chance to do their own bug safari earlier this month. Equipped with bug pots, magnifiers and identification guides, children (and obliging parents) delved into the undergrowth to discover centipedes, millipedes, beetles and more.

More recently, last weekend, visitors planted their own wildflower seeds – a mixture of native wildflowers including bluebells, poppies, cornflowers and more – in biodegradable pots, to take home for attracting bees and butterflies into their gardens.

Having completed RSPB’s summer family events, this week I returned to the bird viewing area, which is busier than ever! Anyone who hasn’t paid it a visit recently really ought to. You can expect to see favourites including nuthatches, coal tits and marsh tits, and Westonbirt’s family of great spotted woodpeckers are still very much around; today I saw Mum, Dad and the two young! It really is a treat to see such elusive birds only a couple of feet away!

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

A tree for dreamers at Treefest, by Joe Nagle, Fundraising Officer

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

At last years’ Treefest the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum invited visitors to put their dreams on the leaves of The Tree of Dreams.

Treefest 262
Some are funny like this one scrawled by a youthful hand: “I wish I had 14 chocolate bars every day.”

Others are deeply poignant: “Peace in a troubled world for young and old.”

While many more are just plain strange: “I wish the world was made of chocolate” … as if we didn’t have enough problems with global warming!

All of you dreamers who gave us your hopes and your wishes can join us again at Treefest. Come to the Tree of Dreams to find what you wished for last time and write down a new one for this coming year.

Not only can you come to make a wish but you can also find out how you can help to make Westonbirt’s dreams come true.

Make sure you visit the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum’s marquee to chat to our volunteers, see our plans for the future and hear about the work we do to make sure the arboretum survives for our children and grandchildren.

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…

More about the work of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum charity…

Westonbirt Arboretum Downs Vegetation Survey update, by Matt Parratt from Forest Research

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Back in June Matt Parratt from Forest Research and a team of volunteers completed the first stage of a comprehensive survey of the vegetation communities and plant species of the Downs.

John Taylor getting to grips with grasses in the horse field

John Taylor getting to grips with grasses in the horse field

From the data gathered we were able to show that the vegetation communities vary across the site and are closely associated with topography.

Harebell or Campanula rotundifolia

Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia

The area along the middle of the slope in the grazed fields had the greatest species richness and is a good example of the calcareous grassland typical of the Cotswold escarpment.

Dwarf thistle cirsium acuale aka the picnic thistle

Dwarf thistle, cirsium acuale

This habitat has suffered a dramatic reduction in quantity and quality in the last 50 years and was a priority habitat under the former UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP).

Betony, Betonica officinalis

Betony, Betonica officinalis

In contrast the flatter areas at the top and bottom of the slope were slightly less species rich and more in keeping with lowland meadows, another former UK BAP habitat.

Wooly thistle flower, Cirsium eriophorum

Wooly thistle flower, Cirsium eriophorum

The area of the current car-park which will be restored had the lowest species diversity – just eight species were present!

Nine species were new records for the site, including two diminutive species which are easily over-looked: Spring sedge (Carex caryophyllea), and Fern grass (Catapodium rigidum). 

Marking the position of Wooly thistle using GPS

Marking the position of Wooly thistle using GPS

Spring sedge is a classic species of calcareous grassland, as is Crested hair-grass (Koeleria macrantha), another of the new records for the site.

Given the seasonal nature of plants it is important to re-survey sites at different times of year to capture a true picture of the vegetation present.

Phase two of the vegetation surveys was carried out over three days between 30 July and 1 August 2012. Apart from a few light showers on the 31 July, the weather was a lot more encouraging than the downpours we had for the first survey.

Searching out Catapodium and Vulpias

Searching out Catapodium and Vulpias

A total of 191 species were recorded during the June survey, approximately 6.5% of the total UK flora – an impressive number for a relatively small area.

The August survey added a further 46 species to the list for the Downs, a total of 237 species.

Additions included Meadow oat-grass (Avenula pratensis), Yellow oat-grass (Trisetum flavescens), Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) and Spiked sedge (Carex spicata) on the grazed area.

Two unexpected species were Horse-radish (Armoracia rusticana), and Great burnet saxifrage (Pimpinella major) which were found growing in the longer grass surrounding the concert area.

Tim Trask looking for Tisetum Flavascens (Yellow oat grass)

Tim Trask looking for Tisetum Flavascens (Yellow oat grass)

Flowers such as Devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) and Autumnal hawkbit (Scorzoneroides autumnalis) were previously tentatively identified from basal leaves only. This time around they were in flower making it easier to confirm their identity.

This latest set of data will be combined with that from the earlier survey and a final report submitted to the Westonbirt Arboretum management team by the end of September.

The results will be used to decide the initial target grassland type for the restoration of the current car-park, and also inform how the restoration is achieved.

Watch this space for updates!

Useful information
Find out more about the Westonbirt Project
See the images in this blog in more detail on Facebook
June vegetation survey: get the volunteer view

Venison, vegetarian paella and vintage teas: catering at Treefest by Julie McKellar, Events Co-ordinator

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Catering always plays an important part in a festival, and this year at Treefest, we’ll have some new caterers with some exciting menus on offer.

Big Pan Paella is one of our new caterers and they will be serving paella made the traditional way, serving vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes.

You will be able to choose from: Paella Carne (meat), Paella Pescado (fish), Jambalaya, Chicken Balti, Chilli con carne with fragrant rice.

For vegetarians: Paella Verduras (vegetables), Balti and Chilli with fragrant rice.

All of this can be enjoyed with a glass of sangria.

I’m looking forward to seeing the giant pans with all the food being cooked.

Tracy and Martin of MDB Catering will be back again this year, serving baguettes, burger and chips, and hog roast, and on some of the days, they will also be cooking venison from the Forest of Dean – delicious!

Hog Roast
Vintage Me is another one of our new caterers, and we are very excited about welcoming them to Westonbirt for the very first time.

Vintage Me
This is a vintage tea room, where your coffee, tea and food will be served on vintage crockery, with beautiful and yummy cakes and cream teas. You can even have afternoon tea which will be sandwiches and cakes with tea or coffee.

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…

A flair for individual design, by Jason Tazewell from Tazewell Joinery

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

I am a highly skilled, traditional craftsman with a flair for individual design, having built up over 27 years experience in joinery.

I have experience in working with traditional hardwoods, tropical hardwoods and softwoods. I take great care in sourcing the finest quality timber, each piece being hand picked to ensure the best possible machining and finish is achieved.

To ensure minimum environmental impact, I am able to source timber from certified suppliers, where good forestry practice is standard.

Tazewell Joinery will be raffling this beautiful piece of furniture at Treefest, to raise as much money as possible for the CLIC Sargent charity.

The workstation has been made from hand picked oak from the Loire Valley, France and elm sourced from a Scottish timber yard.

For your chance to win this unique item, enter the raffle. Donations of £2.50 can be made at our stand on the day or you can visit
The draw will take place on 30th September 2012.

Useful links
Buy Treefest tickets online
Find out more about Treefest’s craft exhibitors
Visit the Tazewell Joinery website

Making Friends at Forest Green, by Louise Bird, Head of Fundraising

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Massive thanks to Ecotricity, one of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum corporate supporters, who hosted me at their Sustainability in Sport Match at Forest Green Rovers yesterday.

It is fair to say that I do not have a huge amount of football knowledge. I had heard of Gary Neville though, who brought the Manchester United (a team I had heard of as well!) Reserve Squad to Nailsworth for the match.

We joined some of Ecotricity’s other affiliate partners to sample the delicious vegetarian menu prepared and served by Relish, who are also our caterers for venue hire at the Great Oak Hall. It was really great to get to know the Ecotricity partnerships team better and also have the opportunity to talk to representatives from other organisations who work with them. Ecotricity currently make a £60 donation to the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum every time one of our Friends and visitors switch their gas and electricity to them (visit

After lunch, just as the monsoon rains moved on to soak another part of the country, we made our way outside for kick off. It was my first live football match, and by clapping when everybody else clapped, “oooohing” at the near misses and shouting the occasional “good ball” I think I managed not to embarrass myself too much. Man. Utd. went 1 0 up in the first half, and typically I was in the Ladies when Forest Green scored the 1st equaliser just after half time (which neatly coincided with Murray taking the Gold medal at the Olympics!) All the excitement of the match came to a head in the 90th minute, when the home team scored a second goal which ended the match with a 2 2 draw.

The Sustainability in Sport Foundation is the brain child of Dale Vince (owner of Ecotricity and Forest Green Rovers) and Gary Neville (England coach and former Manchester Utd captain) who are aiming to “change the rules” and “put sustainability into the heart of sport”. Needless to say they took the opportunity to showcase some of Forest Green Rovers FC’s leading environmental initiatives, including the solar powered MowBot which uses GPS technology to mow the pitch… I wonder how well it would do around the trees at Westonbirt Arboretum? Possibly something to add to the “things to fundraise for” list?

Useful links
Find out more about the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum charity
How you can support us
Become a member

Preparing for the Plant Hunters’ Academy, by Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

During the school holidays the excitement doesn’t cease here in the learning department. If anything, we are even busier – with four family events running over four weeks, each week with a different family trail and set of crafts.

Young Plant Hunters' Academy crafts
During the flurry of our High Fibres event this week, I have been preparing for our biggest event of the summer – the Plant Hunters’ Academy – which runs throughout Treefest.

Part of this preparation involves the writing of the family trail which will be available to families to pick up and follow at the event.

As always with trail writing, I have discovered way more interesting information than I can possibly fit onto the trail boards.

I have been learning so much about the Victorian plant hunters who brought tree seeds from different countries back to Britain, who in short, enabled places like Westonbirt Arboretum to become the important collections they are today.

The tales I have read are all amazing. Some are definitely not suitable for the family trail – rumours of death due to syphilis, eye witness reports of torture and a vivid account of animal cruelty that greatly upset the plant hunter who wrote about it and made me wince while reading.

Others have made me laugh and interrupt my fellow workers to read them out – the tale of Ernest Wilson having to share a blanket with four muddy irate chickens is by far my favourite.

Young Plant Hunters' Academy trail
I struggled to decide how to structure the trail. Should I do it chronologically? A stop for each plant hunter perhaps? And then which plant hunters should I include – or more importantly, which can I bear to leave out?

In the end, I realised that I had plenty of my own questions about the lives of plant hunters and I decided to try to answer those questions in the stops of the trail.

Want to find out what my questions are? What were the answers? You’ll have to read my trail to find out!

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…

What’s in the autumn issue, by Louisa Lockwood, Magazine editor

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

The Westonbirt Magazine is produced by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum for its membership; to inform Friends about events, to engage Friends in issues that affect the arboretum, and to share enjoyment in and knowledge of this world-renowned tree collection. Here’s what’s in the autumn 2012 issue…

Autumn cover
For the first time, we bring you an interview with the Director of Westonbirt Arboretum – Simon Toomer. You’ll be able to read more about how he started working at Westonbirt, 12 years ago, and what his personal vision is for the arboretum.

There are no less than 3 very fine features by members of the Tree Team:
Dan Crowley tells us more about the Signature Species that form the backbone of the collection here.
Raef Johnson describes the trees he encountered in the Caucasus and where we can find those species around the arboretum.
Penny Jones shares her excitement at the new, bespoke propagation facilities that have been funded by the Friends and built inside 4 months.

There are some beautiful autumn photographs to enjoy, but do watch out for the spiders.

The rainfall chart is back – bigger and better than ever with some quirky weather facts from Sally Day.

In this Jubilee and Olympic year, Hugh Angus advises us on how to choose a commemorative tree to plant.

We also celebrate one of my favourite foods – wild blackberries – with a recipe by Charlotte Pike who will be cooking alongside Rob Rees at Treefest. There are two pages of Treefest tempters in the magazine too.

I hope you enjoy it!

Useful links
More about the Westonbirt Magazine
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum