Archive for June, 2013

A wonderful guided walk, by Emily Pryor, Marketing Support Officer

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

I am new to the arboretum, after only starting here a couple of days ago and feeling very ‘unknowledgeable’ about the beauty within the fold, I decided to sign up for a guided walk.

Handkerchief tree
Since coming here, I have heard nothing but good things about the volunteers and their knowledge of the arboretum and its history. For me, there was no better place to start.

After being introduced to our expert guide, Tricia, we were encouraged to ask any questions we liked along the way. Shortly into our guided walk I realised that Robert Holford’s planting style was nothing short of astounding.

What I learned from Tricia was that Robert’s planting style was called ‘picturesque’. This, from what I could gather, meant that it was designed to look different, using tiers, colours and groupings of trees.

We were invited to take in what are called the ‘Champion trees’ (look for the blue name label when you are here): trees that are the biggest in height or girth of their kind. What an eye opener that was. After seeing a few extraordinary sized trunks and some pine cones as long as my forearm, I was told that a cedar in America over 2000 years old, has a trunk of 33 metres in girth. Fascinating.

What I really enjoyed hearing from Tricia was Holford’s legacy that he left ‘within the trees’. One of the first sets of trees we came across we were told were known as the ‘Three Sisters’, all planted in a huddle for Holfords daughters, resembling what looks like a tight family unit.  We also visited areas that Tricia knew to be favourites for where the Holford family had their picnics.

As well as her astounding knowledge of the history of the arboretum, her enthusiasm and knowledge of the trees was incredible. What she didn’t know, in my eyes, probably wasn’t worth knowing, and she continued to surprise us with the magical nature of the trees. The Copper Beech she showed us was truly special. From the outside it looks as though it has a deep purple leaf, but take one step underneath the tree and you are thrown by what is a sea of deep green foliage. I’m sure there are many scientific reasons for this, perhaps beyond my means, but seeing that for the first time was quite magical.

Copper Beech Tree
We then move on to ‘Lime Avenue’. How different that is to the rest of the arboretum can’t be done justice in my words. But it is stunning. A huge grand row of Lime trees line the path. Wildflowers surround the trees, from buttercups to orchids and wild grasses, which Tricia says reminds her of her childhood, and she’s right. 

In between the feeling of various tree leaves, Tricia tells us animatedly and passionately about the stories of the ‘Plant Hunters’ that contributed to Westonbirt’s tree collection.  I am told of Ernest Wilson who gave us the Tulip tree and the Handkerchief Tree, for which the latter I have never seen anything like in my life. I am then given the top tips on the places to go when it gets to autumn colour time, which I will store in my back pocket for when the clock hits October.
 
Although the history is fascinating, as interesting is how Westonbirt works today. I am told by Tricia that it is constantly evolving, but the planting format remains the same.  From maintaining the site and encouraging a sustainable system to reusing tree trunks for carving into sculptures, and dead wood used to create habitats for wildlife, it seems cherished and loved in every way possible. It’s also a forward thinking arboretum; the 2050 glade which Tricia tells us about confirms that.

As we amble back to the Great Oak Hall, I chat with Tricia about how she spends her days here and she tells me one of the reasons she loves it is that she is constantly learning. Which made me think that I have a long way to go! She really was, and I’m certain all of the guides are, the most captivating route to understand Westonbirt and how it got to where it is today. I would recommend the walks in a heartbeat. In fact, I’ve signed up for my next one already.

If you would like to join one of our guided walks, please click here for more information…

5 Random Facts I learnt on our USA Trip, by Louise Bird, Head of Fundraising

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum’s Head of Fundraising, Louise Bird, and the Forestry Commission’s communications team at Westonbirt, Katrina Podlewska and Gina Mills, recently visited the USA, meeting their counterparts at arboretums and botanic gardens to find out who their visitors are, how they fundraise, and to learn from some of the best. The trip was funded by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum.

Louise Bird and Katrina Podlewska at Arnold Arboretum, Boston

Even though the purpose of our trip was to learn about how they do fundraising, marketing and communications across the Atlantic, it was inevitable that we were going to glean a lot of information about trees.

I can now identify at least 5 different species of tree (an oak was about the best of my ability before I left home), know the state trees of the 5 states we visited (starting with the Ulmus americana of Massachussets and ending with the Quercus alba of Illinois) and have learnt 5 new things about how trees are used (ranging from curing scurvy to making baseball bats).

Then there are the ‘random’ facts, tidbits of information that I picked up along the way…

1. On our journey from New York to Cleveland we saw approximately 2,787,840,000 trees (we did the maths!)
2. New York City’s 592,130 trees are estimated to give $122million worth of annual benefits to the city residents
3. Americans invested in trees as a way of getting their money out of the UK after the war (the Holden Arboretum’s founder brought back English Oaks)
4. Penn’s Wood is the translation of the Latin word Pennsylvania
5. The buckeye got its name from the native Americans who thought that the nut resembled the eye of a buck deer.

Parking bays and picnic spots, by Sophie Nash, Project Officer

Friday, June 21st, 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.

The topsoil to the left of these stone parking bays willbe a space for picnic benches, surrounded by grass which will be seeded naturally and with 'hay-strewing' to ensure that local floral thrive.

The topsoil to the left of these stone parking bays willbe a space for picnic benches, surrounded by grass which will be seeded naturally and with 'hay-strewing' to ensure that local floral thrive.

Here you can see some of the parking bays nearing completion. They just need a final 'dust layer' and they will be finished. Pavers will be used to mark out individual bays.

Here you can see some of the parking bays nearing completion. They just need a final 'dust layer' and they will be finished. Pavers will be used to mark out individual bays.

This shows the new access road that will be used by staff in progress near to Skilling Gate.

This shows the new access road that will be used by staff in progress near to Skilling Gate.

This is the access road above the Plant Centre, showing Plant Centre pick-up parking bays on either side.

This is the access road above the Plant Centre, showing Plant Centre pick-up parking bays on either side.

Staff access road, showing Plant Centre to left and the parking just above it.

Staff access road, showing Plant Centre to left and the parking just above it.

Due to good weather during construction, the grass is growing back of its own accord. Most areas will restore themselves in this way, although in some areas we will strew hay cut onsite to restore the natural grassland and local flora.

Due to good weather during construction, the grass is growing back of its own accord. Most areas will restore themselves in this way, although in some areas we will strew hay cut onsite to restore the natural grassland and local flora.

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

Project progress report, by Sophie Nash, Project Officer

Monday, June 10th, 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.

Director Simon Toomer walks on what will be the new footpath from the car park to the Welcome Building. Once complete you will be able to see the new building directly in front of where Simon is standing.

Director Simon Toomer walks on what will be the new footpath from the car park to the Welcome Building. Once complete you will be able to see the new building directly in front of where Simon is standing.

Plant Centre pick-up only parking bays being created - dedicated disabled spaces are on the right, closest to the Plant Centre.

Plant Centre pick-up only parking bays being created - dedicated disabled spaces are on the right, closest to the Plant Centre.

This shows the spot where contractors working on the new access road for staff are about (this week!) to cut through over the road to Skilling Gate to connect up with the existing access road.

This shows the spot where contractors working on the new access road for staff are about (this week!) to cut through over the road to Skilling Gate to connect up with the existing access road.

This shows the nearly completed feeder road for the new overflow car parking.

This shows the nearly completed feeder road for the new overflow car parking.

This image shows the footpath (in the left corner of the picture), disabled parking bays, road and coach drop off and pick up point close to the Welcome Building.

This image shows the footpath (in the left corner of the picture), disabled parking bays, road and coach drop off and pick up point close to the Welcome Building.

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