Archive for February, 2013

A big week for the team, by Sophie Nash, Project Officer

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Sophie Nash is Project Officer for the Westonbirt Project. She organises the logistics of the project, working with architects and project managers for various elements to deliver the works.

As soon as we received the Heritage Lottery Fund decision, back in November, we started to plan the tender for the interpretation within the Welcome Building.

This week we will be selecting a design company to help us to deliver this key piece of work.

Before making our decision Ben Oliver, Learning & Participation Manager and I took a trip around the country looking at what others had done, mistakes they had learned from and great ideas we could borrow!

Our first trip took us north to Lancashire to see a new build, back down to Birmingham to an Arts and Craft house and out Warwickshire to a closed castle. Visiting both locations really helped us to be clear about the use of interactives both hi and low tech and our writing style.

Inside Brockholes visitor centreApproach to Brockholes
Winterbourne in BirminghamWinterbourne in Birmaingham
Our second trip out took us across the country to Hampshire, via Forest Research in Farnham to drop off some soil samples, and back out to Buckinghamshire.

Our first stop was an exhibition about Captain Oates. Although the exhibition contained interesting information, I learnt I have a hidden skill as I happily carried an old potato on my feet around the room, mimicking how a penguin carries an egg!

The final stop of the day was Roald Dahl’s writing hut. It was really interesting to see how we could cater for a wide age range from toddlers to adults within the same space by considering height, peepholes and positioning of computer screens.

Roald DahlRoald Dahl
I’ll update the blog later in the Spring with information on the selected company and our plans for the interpretation in and around the Welcome Building.

For more details about the Westonbirt Project, visit www.westonbirtproject.co.uk

Whatever the Weather: Trees for our future climate. By Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Join our Learning Team for the ‘Whatever the Weather’ family trail around the arboretum this half term (between 12-14 February) to discover how trees survive in all sorts of weather, how trees can change the weather and what we are doing to prepare the arboretum for a changing climate.

Scientists expect that the British climate will become drier and hotter.

Westonbirt Arboretum is creating a one hectare site to trial species from different origins to see how they survive in our changing climate. This is called the 2050 Glade, which is close to the junction between Lime Avenue and Loop Walk in the Old Arboretum.

Ten initial species have been planted, including a field maple collected from seed in Turkey. Around half have survived the harsh winter. Field maple is a species native to England and it will be interesting to see whether the plant collected in Turkey performs any differently.

Field maple at Westonbirt, credit Gina Mills

Other species to be tested are the Turkish sweetgum, the Kamila tree and both the Chinese and Japanese Tallow tree. Three of these trees may be suitable substitutes for autumn colour providers, such as maples, that might not do so well in a warmer climate.

You can find out more by visiting the Great Oak Hall to pick up a trail map and taking part in our free fun activities at the Learning Centre between 11am and 3pm, 12-14 February.

Useful links and information:

General admission to Westonbirt Arboretum (until 28 February): adults £5, concessions £4, children £2.
Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum and accompanying children go free.
Take a look at the Plan Your Visit web pages for opening times, directions and more information.

Whatever the Weather: Missing home comforts. By Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Join our Learning Team for the ‘Whatever the Weather’ family trail around the arboretum this half term (between 12-14 February) to discover how trees survive in all sorts of weather, how trees can change the weather and what we are doing to prepare the arboretum for a changing climate.

The eucalyptus at Westonbirt Arboretum is a long way from home. Native to Australia, its normal climate is very different from our own.

Eucalyptus

It survives well here in the UK, but it doesn’t like the frost. Many eucalyptus trees don’t tolerate temperatures below -5C. So how is this one still alive?

The Holford family, who created Westonbirt Arboretum, planted a shelter belt of evergreen trees like yew and hemlock around the edge of the arboretum to protect more delicate trees from cold winds and frosts. We still lose trees due to cold weather from time to time, but the shelter belt helps to reduce this.

You can find out more by visiting the Great Oak Hall to pick up a trail map and taking part in our free fun activities at the Learning Centre between 11am and 3pm, 12-14 February.

Useful links and information:

General admission to Westonbirt Arboretum (until 28 February): adults £5, concessions £4, children £2.
Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum and accompanying children go free.
Take a look at the Plan Your Visit web pages for opening times, directions and more information.

Whatever the Weather: Can a tree predict the weather? By Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Join our Learning Team for the ‘Whatever the Weather’ family trail around the arboretum this half term (between 12-14 February) to discover how trees survive in all sorts of weather, how trees can change the weather and what we are doing to prepare the arboretum for a changing climate.

There is a lot of folklore surrounding trees as weather predictors. It’s hard to separate the myths from the science, as some people say that trees do react to changes in air pressure and humidity that we humans can’t detect. Here are some tree predictions, why not test them out for yourself?

“When maple leaves curl and turn bottom up in a blowing wind, rain is sure to follow”

“Open pinecones predict dry weather and closed pinecones predict rain”

“The first bloom on the horse chestnut tree indicates that winter is over and there will be no more cold weather”.

“If the oak flowers before the ash, we shall have a splash. If the ash flowers before the oak, we shall have a soak“

Ash leaves

You can find out more by visiting the Great Oak Hall to pick up a trail map and taking part in our free fun activities at the Learning Centre between 11am and 3pm, 12-14 February.

Useful links and information:

General admission to Westonbirt Arboretum (until 28 February): adults £5, concessions £4, children £2.
Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum and accompanying children go free.
Take a look at the Plan Your Visit web pages for opening times, directions and more information.

Whatever the Weather: Surviving life in a freezer. By Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Join our Learning Team for the ‘Whatever the Weather’ family trail around the arboretum this half term (between 12-14 February) to discover how trees survive in all sorts of weather, how trees can change the weather and what we are doing to prepare the arboretum for a changing climate.

Although their branches may seem delicate, birches are one of the toughest tree groups around. In fact they’re so tough they can survive even if their trunks freeze solid.

Birch at Westonbirt Arboretum

The secret behind their survival is the removal of water from their living cells – after all if there is no water to freeze, ice can’t form!

Pores in the walls of their cells allow water to move out of the cells and into the spaces between them, where it freezes. However, the pores are too small for ice to move back into the cells, protecting the cells from freezing. This method is so good, some trees can survive temperatures as low as -196 degrees celcius!

You can find out more by visiting the Great Oak Hall to pick up a trail map and taking part in our free fun activities at the Learning Centre between 11am and 3pm, 12-14 February.

Useful links and information:

General admission to Westonbirt Arboretum (until 28 February): adults £5, concessions £4, children £2.
Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum and accompanying children go free.
Take a look at the Plan Your Visit web pages for opening times, directions and more information.

Whatever the Weather: Urban Lungs. By Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Join our Learning Team for the ‘Whatever the Weather’ family trail around the arboretum this half term (between 12-14 February) to discover how trees survive in all sorts of weather, how trees can change the weather and what we are doing to prepare the arboretum for a changing climate.

Today we are beginning to realise the many ways street trees and parks make our cities nicer places to live. Plane trees (such as this one below) are particularly suited as they are highly tolerant of pollution.

London plane at Westonbirt, credit Gina Mills

Thanks to evaporation from their leaves, trees can help cool city temperatures during the summer – by as much as 6 degrees celcius in hot climates.

In winter they act as windbreaks helping to conserve heat. This reduces the energy required for heating and cooling. In addition their leaves help to clean the air and reduce noise. This promotes healthier communities – in fact a study showed that settings with trees lowered stress and blood pressure.

You can find out more by visiting the Great Oak Hall to pick up a trail map and taking part in our free fun activities at the Learning Centre between 11am and 3pm, 12-14 February.

Useful links and information:

General admission to Westonbirt Arboretum (until 28 February): adults £5, concessions £4, children £2.
Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum and accompanying children go free.
Take a look at the Plan Your Visit web pages for opening times, directions and more information.

Whatever the Weather: Wind stoppers and sun blockers. By Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Join our Learning Team for the ‘Whatever the Weather’ family trail around the arboretum this half term (between 12-14 February) to discover how trees survive in all sorts of weather, how trees can change the weather and what we are doing to prepare the arboretum for a changing climate.

In the 1800s Napoleon planted avenues of tall poplars along French roads to shade his marching armies. Although these armies may have disappeared, our use of trees for protection continues.

Lime Avenue at Westonbirt Arboretum credit Jane Gifford

Today trees like hawthorn, sloe and holly are often used by farmers to protect livestock, crops and soil from the wind.

As well as protecting crops from physical damage, hedges also protect the soil, reducing water loss and soil erosion. This leads to an increase in crop yields. Trees also benefit farm animals – in one study cows that could shelter under trees were found to produce more milk.

You can find out more by visiting the Great Oak Hall to pick up a trail map and taking part in our free fun activities at the Learning Centre between 11am and 3pm, 12-14 February.

Useful links and information:

General admission to Westonbirt Arboretum (until 28 February): adults £5, concessions £4, children £2.
Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum and accompanying children go free.
Take a look at the Plan Your Visit web pages for opening times, directions and more information.

Whatever the Weather: Huff and puff! By Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Join our Learning Team for the ‘Whatever the Weather’ family trail around the arboretum this half term (between 12-14 February) to discover how trees survive in all sorts of weather, how trees can change the weather and what we are doing to prepare the arboretum for a changing climate.

The wind is a major cause of tree death. Yet trees can grow in extremely windy areas – if they have the right shape and flexibility!

Where strong winds blow from one direction, ‘flagging’ can occur.

Scotts pine with signs of flagging from strong winds

This is where the branches grow only on the downwind side of the tree. Some trees even grow flat along the ground.

Other trees like the palm are very flexible and can bend right over. This allows them to even withstand hurricanes.

You can find out more by visiting the Great Oak Hall to pick up a trail map and taking part in our free fun activities at the Learning Centre between 11am and 3pm, 12-14 February.

Useful links and information:

General admission to Westonbirt Arboretum (until 28 February): adults £5, concessions £4, children £2.
Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum and accompanying children go free.
Take a look at the Plan Your Visit web pages for opening times, directions and more information.

The Devil’s in the Detail, by Sophie Nash, Project Officer

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Sophie Nash is Project Officer for the Westonbirt Project. She organises the logistics of the project, working with architects and project managers for various elements to deliver the works.

Welcome Building artist's impression

Now that the car park is underway my attention has now shifted to the delivery of the new Welcome Building.

We’ve been working alongside our architects, Glenn Howells, and key members of the Westonbirt team including visitor services, the friends membership team and the learning team amongst others.

We are currently revisiting the internal layout of the building, checking that the building works in terms of ticketing, toilets and interpretation, balancing the requirements for each of these functions to ensure it works for us as much as possible.

Storage is always in short supply so we’ve tried to create enough space to store the current seasonal guide and space for a mop and bucket amongst other necessary items.

We’ve also created space for mobility scooters so those who want to hire a scooter can collect them from the new Welcome Building.

Over the next few weeks leading up to issuing the tender we will be deciding on fixtures and fittings including plug sockets and lighting.

For more details about the Westonbirt Project, visit www.westonbirtproject.co.uk