Archive for November, 2012

Goodbye to another very old friend… by Mark Ballard, Curator

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Predicted high winds and heavy rainfall resulted in the closure of the arboretum to the public on Thursday 22 November 2012.

Thankfully the extreme weather conditions caused very little damage; during our early morning safety inspections the next day we found just a few small branches on the ground, with the loss of no trees or shrubs.

The only casualty was a standing dead oak on The Downs, not far from the Mitchell Drive entrance to the Old Arboretum.

fallen oak
The oak (Quercus robur) had been allowed to gracefully go into decline over a very long period, and eventually died in the past few years.

We had kept in place as it provided an interesting feature within the parkland landscape, not to mention the chance to tell people about the valuable habitat that these trees provide.

We can only guess at its age, as both the main trunk and remaining branches are now hollow and rotted. It is certainly safe to say though, that it was several hundred years old.

The good news is that a young oak sapling had been planted right next to the original tree back in 2009, and despite a close shave is unharmed.

Find out more about Westonbirt’s trees and landscape…

Turning a learning centre into a wintry wonderland! by Caroline Bennett, Learning Assistant

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Christmas is coming! There’s no getting away from it now, we are in full decoration frenzy here in the learning department at Westonbirt. Today Chris and I were joined by our team of volunteers and two professional “winter effects” specialists. The task in hand is to create a magical place for visitors to make natural crafts during our Enchanted Christmas event. This is what it takes:

To turn a learning centre into a wintry wonderland:

10 sheets of moulded “ice”
11 Christmas trees
150 kgs of wax
4 trailer loads of fresh greenery
44 metres of red velvet ribbon
50 metres of green satin ribbon
One snow machine

A child enjoying crafts at Enchanted Christmas

And to prepare the crafts:

4000 pipe cleaners cut into quarters
5000 willow stems from the Somerset levels
Thousands of cones, collected from the arboretum and then sorted by species
2kg of cinnamon, lightly crushed with a sledge hammer
1kg of star anise
600g of cloves
A pile (taller than me) of large cypress branches
100 metres of muslin, cut into 15cm squares
100 fabric crayons (A quick experiment shows that this will definitely not be enough, we need at least 300 more)
60 more metres of green and red ribbon
40 balls of wool
3.5 kg of glitter
5 litres of glue
40 yoghurt pots donated by our volunteers
9 cups of tea
8 cups of coffee
1 hot chocolate
18 mince pies to feed our willing workers!

We are getting slightly over excited. I really hope you can all come to see the final effect!

Find out more and buy tickets for an Enchanted Christmas…

First in line for the new Westonbirt DVD! by Louisa Oldfield, Fundraising Assistant

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I haven’t really caught on to 3D, or at least I hadn’t until Steve and David from iworkfilms came to show us a preview of the DVD they have been filming over the past year.

I have to admit I was sceptical. How could a DVD even hope to capture the essence of what makes Westonbirt so special? After all it’s not just a visual spectacle; you feel it, smell it, breathe it…

How wrong I was – I donned the 3D glasses (attractively over the top of my specs!) and sat back in the luxurious cinema of the Great Oak Hall upstairs office and was completely bowled over by the beauty of the filming.

The 3D was amazing. It really brought the images to life, almost touchable. At one point I even sat back as I thought a branch would poke me in the eye!

Not only had the film captured the essence of Westonbirt it also showed me unexpected places and gave me a real insight into what goes on behind the scenes in the arboretum – beyond my desk in Keepers Cottage.

Steve’s love for the arboretum really shines through and his original music is a beautiful and haunting accompaniment to the cinematography – magical.

So, in one swoop I have gone from sceptic to first in line for my Christmas pre-order please!

The DVD is available to pre-order now from http://www.iworkfilms.com/westonbirt/

£2 from each copy sold will be donated to the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum.

Autumnal highlights: Cross breed, by Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

As part of Westonbirt’s activities for families this October, Caroline Bennett from our Learning and Participation Team has created a trail of autumnal highlights which will run from 29 October – 2 November. Here are some of the fascinating facts she has researched…

24 May 2011 025
Unlike deciduous trees, this tree, Pinus x schwerinii, has a very different survival strategy. It has tough weather resistant leaves that stay on the tree throughout the winter.

Evergreen leaves are often waxy or hairy, small in size (like these needles) or thick and leathery like rhododendron. All these features help to reduce water loss during winter.

This pine is a natural cross between the Eastern White Pine from North America and the Blue Pine from Afghanistan. It was discovered in (and named after) the town of Schwerin in Germany, where the two trees were growing near one another in a park.

Useful links
Find out more about the Autumnal Highlights family event…
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum and your kids will go free for a year. Join now…

Volunteers setting the seeds of success once again, by Jacqueline Dalton, Charity Manager

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Craft Fair in the Great Oak Hall
A whopping £1,887 was raised at our Craft Fair on the weekend of 20 & 21 October!

We are immensely lucky to have the support of so many volunteers and very grateful to those who donated goods, held stalls and helped out on the day.

The hall looked so enticing with such a variety of goods; no wonder it was buzzing with activity.

We especially wish to thank Maureen Gobbett for her enthused support and contribution over many years – her planning and organising setting the seeds of success year on year.

Useful links
Find out more about the work of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum charity
Learn more about volunteering at Westonbirt
Forthcoming Great Oak Hall events
Become a Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum member

Autumnal highlights: A chip off the old block, by Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

As part of Westonbirt’s activities for families this October, Caroline Bennett from our Learning and Participation Team has created a trail of autumnal highlights which will run from 29 October – 2 November. Here are some of the fascinating facts she has researched…

Prunus serrulata 'Tai Haku' great white or hill cherry_AMGilbert_highres
The Great White Cherry produces lots of double white blossoms in spring that fall to the ground like snow. It is a cultivar bred for its beautiful flowers, but not its seeds.

The Great White Cherry or ‘Tai Haku’ cherry rarely produces viable seed. This tree, like many cultivars, will have be grown from a cutting which is in effect a clone of the parent tree.

Though plant cloning might sound like something from science fiction, humans have been growing plants in this way for thousands of years.

Useful links
Find out more about the Autumnal Highlights family event…
Become a member of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum and your kids will go free for a year. Join now…