Archive for September, 2013

Working on the Welcome Building, by contractors Speller Metcalfe

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Rich Bullock, Project Manager, Speller Metcalfe.

Welcome Building site

We started on site at Westonbirt about a month ago, and things are really progressing well. Luckily we’ve been blessed with a beautiful location, which always makes life a bit easier!

So far, none of the materials we’ve excavated have been taken off site, all the soil has been distributed for use elsewhere. We always try and reuse our materials where we can, and avoid waste and additional costs – something we know the Forestry Commission are keen to do as well.

In terms of the build itself, we’ve been getting underway with the groundworks – all the drainage has been installed, both land and foul, with the septic tanks going in in the next three weeks.

Welcome Building site

We’ve also cast the reinforced concrete slabs and the holding-down bolts to take the timber frame structure, and this means that you can really begin to see the shape and scope of the building, which makes it easier to envisage how it’s going to look when it’s complete.

We’re really trying to be as local as possible, with our stone being sourced from Tetbury and the shingles and rain cladding coming from English Woodland Timbers. Not only is this important to us as local building contractors, we are also aiming to achieve BREEAM Excellent. BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is an awarding body who assess the environmental design and building methods for sustainable building projects all over the world, and in to achieve ‘Excellent’ all our materials must be sourced from within the UK, among other initiatives we are working towards.

Welcome Building site

The next stage will be to erect the timber frame – the crane man has been down this week to assess what type of crane he will need to use, and hopefully we should begin to see the frame going up in the next week. Fingers crossed for the weather!

For more information on the Westonbirt Project visit the webpages.

A friendly thanks!

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

By Bev Starkings, membership co-ordinator for Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

fowa tent

The Friends had their first marquee dedicated to Membership at Treefest last month and it was a fantastic success. So we would like to thank all who made it happen and helped out.

We took a phenomenal 146 memberships during the weekend! It was wonderful to meet and talk to our members and explain how much their subscription makes a difference to Westonbirt Arboretum.

We were delighted with the positive comments about how much they were enjoying this year’s Treefest and how enthusiastic they are about the Westonbirt Project. A very positive and enjoyable experience!

For more information about the benefits of membership take a look at our webpage

Welcome Building update: foundation stage

Monday, September 16th, 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 Welcome Building is progressing well since my last blog. Here are a few photos taken over the last month:

Construction site

This picture was taken after the initial excavation and formation works had taken place. The foul drainage pipes (the red plastic pipes) have been installed for the disabled and men’s toilets.

Temporary shuttering

Above: the temporary shuttering is going up in preparation for the foundations.


Above: the temporary view through the Welcome Building ticketing foyer.

Concrete foundations

The concrete foundations for half of the building are now complete. The area being filled by machine is the new mobility scooter store. The construction worker in the blue hard hat who is monitoring the machine, is stood in the foyer for the new toilets.


All of the shuttering is in place ready for the concrete to be poured in to create the reinforced foundations for the other half of the Welcome Building.

Concrete pads

Once the foundations for the building are complete, concrete pads will be formed for the four timber columns which support the roof over the ticketing foyer.

For more details about The Westonbirt Project, visit

New Silk Wood path under construction!

Friday, September 13th, 2013

You may have seen some work going on in Silk Wood.  We are improving access by creating a new stone surfaced path that links between Waste Drive and Broad Drive.

The route has been carefully chosen to provide a picturesque journey from start to finish and provide access to some of Silk Wood’s highlights.

Consideration has also been given to the aesthetic appearance of the new drive, particularly its smooth curves and newly created sightlines.  The full length is 650 metres and the path will be constructed using the same dimensions and materials as other traditional drives at Westonbirt and will improve access for mobility buggies and wheelchairs.

The aim is to complete the project – which has been made possible by the generous support of The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum – by autumn 2013.

Westonbirt, through the eyes of an Octocopter! by Susanna Byers, Interpretation Support Officer

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

As the construction of the new Welcome Building gets fully underway, our mission to produce an exciting new interpretation space continues! My role here as Interpretation Support Officer means that I get to dig deep into what Westonbirt is really about: finding out about it’s historical development, how the site is intricately managed, how important trees are to our world and how Westonbirt itself provides a significant scientific resource for people the world over.

The information I have found out during my short time here is incredible; Westonbirt is so much more than a beautiful walk around some nice trees – when you walk around think about how the trees got here, where are they native to, why they are here and how they have been managed to grow so magnificently.

Within the new Welcome Building will be a room dedicated to bring you this information. It’s a big job, but one that I am thoroughly enjoying as we explore how a site such as Westonbirt can tell it’s story in innovative and engaging ways.

Coinciding with the beginnings of the building itself, has been the start of the next phase in creating this interpretation room: collecting the content. If you’ve been at Westonbirt recently you may have heard a noise that resembled an alarmingly large swarm of mosquitoes. The sound was in fact what is called an Octocopter, an 8 ‘legged’ remote control high definition camera.

The Octocopter: the propellors are made of Birch!

The Octocopter: the propellors are made of Birch!

 The idea started as thinking of an interesting way to tell the story of the Holfords rides on horse and carriage through the arboretum. We thought one way of doing this would be to show people a view which they may not have seen before: from height! We took shots of the routes the Holfords would have taken, and filmed a multitude of historic and iconic Westonbirt areas including flying at canopy height down Jackson Avenue; flying low through the branches of the shelter belt off Circular Drive; and soaring high above the Downs taking in a 360 degree view of the whole site.

The camera can fly up to 400m in the air, and is manoeuvrable in any direction as long as it stays within eye line of the operator. With one person remotely operating the mini helicopter-like machine itself, another operates the camera; using a wireless monitor to see whether to pan left and right or up and down. As many a visitor pointed out as they passed the film crew, it rather resembles some sort of UFO…

 Octocopter on Broad Drive

 Although it may seem an easy thing to set up and shoot with the octocopter, the process involved is complex. Once the camera is rigged up, the batteries have to be connected; batteries so powerful that it makes a huge crack sound as the leads attach. The shots are discussed at length, as the operators need to know exactly where they are going before take off: a machine this powerful takes up a lot of battery life in a short amount of time. Finally, before lift off, we wait for it to pick up satellite signal – it records where it is in case something goes wrong, so it can land itself back in the spot it started! A very clever piece of kit, especially as it manages to pick up a signal amongst the trees here!

Octocopter wireless monitor

 The footage will form part of an introductory short film which highlights the historical development of the Westonbirt Landscape, showing a side to the arboretum which we wouldn’t normally be able to see.


For more details on The Westonbirt Project please visit our project webpages

Final Treefest carvings revealed!

Monday, September 2nd, 2013


Over the course of the three day Treefest extravaganza we have had three expert carvers working on site to produce magical storytelling chairs for three local schools.

The Owl and the Pussycat, created by Dave LucasThe Owl and the Pussycat, created by Dave Lucas

Dave Lucas’ ‘Owl and The Pussycat’ chair is being donated to Coln House School to have in their new outdoor sensory area.

 Little Bo Peep by Raymond Wirick

Raymond Wirick has created a ‘Bo Peep’ storytelling chair which is going to Lyneham Primary School  to be put in their outdoor area for children of service personnel that are serving overseas.

'Storybooks' sculpture by Steve Griffin

The ‘Storybooks’ chair created by Steve Griffin will be donated to St Mary’s School in Tetbury for their outdoor area next to their new library.

For more information on what Treefest is about please visit our website