Archive for March, 2014

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners: Azara microphylla

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

The beauty of spring is definitely unfolding at Westonbirt (even if it has turned a little bit chilly again!) and one of the many highlights is Azara microphylla, which is in flower right now.

Azara microphylla Azara microphylla

Although they may not be the most showy and you do need to get up close and personal to have a good look – you are in for a treat. The smell is just fantastic!! Some say they smell like vanilla, for others it’s more like cocoa butter. My advice is to get stuck in, have a good whiff and decide for yourself! You can find it in the Old Arboretum, look at the interactive map, to find its exact spot.  It is another favourite of many of us here and another reason to head for the trees here at Westonbirt.


The restoration… by Sophie Nash, Project Manager.

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

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

From early April 2014, we’ll be removing the current car park to restore the area to wildflower rich grassland.

Before - current car park After - artist’s impression of restored grassland

The relocation of car parking away from the Grade I historic landscape has been a long-term ambition of the arboretum and is supported by English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Gloucestershire Environmental Trust.

The work will involve closing the current car park so that we can remove the existing hard standing and road surfaces from the car park.

We’ll then make good the ground using soil which was removed during the construction of the Welcome Building – much more sustainable than bringing it in from elsewhere!

You may have seen this mound of soil near to the car park, waiting for the time when the restoration of this part of our landscape could begin.

We like to think of this heap of soil as our very own locally sourced ‘seed bank’ – it’s packed full of grass and wildflower seeds which are indigenous to the arboretum’s grassland.

We’ll also have a volunteer team helping to kick start the process of returning the landscape to grassland, by ‘strewing’.

Volunteer strewing

This is a process which involves cutting grass and wildflowers back with traditional hand tools, then spreading the resulting seed-packed hay across the ground so that species sourced here at Westonbirt can populate the restored area.

Restoring grassland takes time, and it will be a while before what we now know as our car park blends seamlessly into the surrounding downs landscape – though as you can see from the artist’s impression, the results should be beautiful and well worth the wait!

We’ll be working hard during the period of downs restoration work to manage alternative parking arrangements and minimise the disruption to visitors.

For more information about the downs restoration please visit the Westonbirt Project pages…

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners: Magnolia campbellii

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Spring things are really getting going here at Westonbirt right now. Numerous Rhododendrons, Camellias, Corylopsis species are all flowering well, in one of our hotspots, Savill Glade, where the Magnolias are also coming to the party. M. campbelli is the first to really get going and is looking just fantastic!!

Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii


For more information about spring at Westonbirt, visit


Friday, March 14th, 2014

By Simon Hough, Recreation Manager

Treefest - Westonbirt at Work

One of the great joys of Westonbirt is the year-round cycle of work that goes into making the tree collection such a vibrant place.

Our signature summer event, Treefest (Saturday 23 August – Monday 25 August 2014), is very much aimed at showing some of the variety of this ‘behind the scenes’ work including many traditional crafts and skills such as coppice working, charcoal production and furniture making.

This year at Treefest we are giving special emphasis to these craftspeople and the incredibly important work they do at Westonbirt in maintaining the woodland ecosystem and the local green economy, as well as the value for visitors of much of Silk Wood.

In the ‘Westonbirt at Work’ area, you will be able to see freshly felled timber being processed by steam-powered and modern day sawmills, before it goes on to be made into tool handles, furniture, charcoal – which in turn will be used by a blacksmith. You can also see traditional hurdle and shingle making which are still in great demand today on many structures, such as our own Silk Wood Barn.

Our volunteers will be providing guided walks of this area to showcase the demonstrations and meet the many people who, at least in part, derive a living from keeping these ancient skills alive and helping to look after and support Westonbirt.

Together with these demonstrations will be our learning team who will be providing many fun family activities,  alongside den building and tree climbing master classes for budding young arborists!

You will even be able to buy some of our home-grown exotic timber from the Westonbirt wood sales, run by our volunteers, should you be inspired to ‘have a go’ at some of these crafts at home.

This is just one part of the less commercial and more educational aspects of our signature Treefest event, which takes a lot of planning and co-ordination year round to come together every August bank holiday weekend.

All of these less commercial aspects are what make Treefest so special and what makes us so proud of it.
Friends members will pay half price to attend the event and of course children go free at Treefest as they do at Westonbirt from 23 July to 31 August 2014.

This means that a theoretical Friends’ members’ family of two adults and two children will get access to the Treefest event for the whole day for £15, as opposed to £30 for non-Friends members.

Friends’ members who want to access the arboretum over the August Bank Holiday weekend will still be able to visit Silk Wood through the new Welcome Building, where refreshments and toilets will also be found.

The Old Arboretum, restaurant, shop and Exploratree play area will be within the Treefest site and unavailable to those not attending the event for these three days.

The Plant Centre will trade as normal during the event and access to it should be unaffected.

We hope you will want to come along and join in the fun this August in whatever capacity, as Westonbirt is the perfect summer’s day out for all the family.

For more information about Treefest, please visit

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners: eye catching catkins!

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Quite a different theme this week. We are all drawn towards different things at different times, and for me, today it was the awesome Alders! 

Out in the collection I paid a visit to some of the fine young examples of Asian origin growing well with us here.

First up along Willesley Drive was Alnus fauriei.

Alnus fauriei  Alnus fauriei
Then, Alnus firma on the edge of the Cherry Collection. 

Alnus firma  Alnus firma

Then, for comparison, into the Old Arboretum for Alnus pendula.

Alnus pendula Alnus-pendula

Attention friends! Find out about your new cards here!

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

In early summer, all of our members will be issued with new cards to enable entry through the Welcome Building. When you receive your new bar-coded cards, your old style cards will no longer be valid. Each member will have a new card with their name on which is not transferable. If you have not already told us your first name(s), please send it and your membership number to so that we can process your new cards.

Welcome Building artist impression

Each member parent or member grandparent will be able to bring in their own children or grandchildren (aged 18 and under) and up to three dogs.

The Welcome Building will be open at 9am each morning, when the arboretum opens. Throughout the year, the Welcome Building will close at 5pm.

In the summer months Friends will be able to enter the arboretum after 5pm using their automated cards, although the rest of the building will be shut.

Important for you to know

To enable smooth operations at the Welcome Building for our current members and new joiners, Forestry Commission staff at Westonbirt will have access to some information that you have already given the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum charity so that we can administer your membership. Membership personal data remains the property of the Friends, is stored by the Friends and will not be transferred to or held by the Forestry Commission. If you have any queries in this respect, please email

Jacqueline Dalton,
Charity Manager

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners!

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Spring is springing here at Westonbirt, with our trees waking up (some before others!) and providing us with spectacular floral and foliage displays for all to enjoy.

For the next thirteen weeks I will be bringing you news of what has been catching my eye and what to look out for among the many colours in the collection at this exciting time of year.

Looking fantastic in the Old Arboretum just now is our one and only Sorbus megalocarpa. Having burst its buds a few weeks ago, The pinky coloured fresh foliage is enlarging beautifully, with the flowers not far behind.

Sorbus megalocarpa

A favourite of many of ours, it is always one to look out for. Native to China and introduced by Ernest Wilson in 1903, it puts on a show in both spring and autumn (as followers of the blog will know!) – and the species would certainly make a great addition to any garden.

Welcome Building update

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

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

Over the last few weeks it’s become much harder to notice progress on the Welcome Building from the outside, but the building is changing daily on the inside.

We are all really pleased with the Western red cedar roof, particularly when you see it on a sunny day!

Welcome Building

This is a current photo of the new ticketing window, on the left, and the doorway into the new information centre. The silver material is the external insulation; the next stage will be to fix a black insect membrane and then the external timber cladding.

Ticketing window

The new view for our visitor services staff that will be standing behind the ticketing window looking out onto the new entrance/exit foyer ready to welcome visitors.

Ticketing window view

The timber window and door frames are now being installed.

Timber frames

Inside the information centre, the plug sockets and data points have been cut out in order to pull through the cables for the new interactive screens which form part of the new mosaic map feature.

Plug sockets

Both the male and female toilets now have plasterboarding, ready for their final skim of plaster in the next few weeks before being tiled. The windows have also been fitted in both sets of toilets allowing the toilets to progress quickly.

Female toilets

It’s not all change on the inside at the moment. The black insect mesh membrane has now been installed over the external insulation. The external cladding is now underway on the office end of the Welcome Building. The vertical pieces of timber are fixed to brackets to take the weight of the cladding; the contractors will then fix the Western red cedar external cladding to these vertical pieces.

Outside the building

Recycling really helps!

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

John Kendall

By John Kendall, Volunteer at Westonbirt.

Did you know that by recycling your printer cartridges and mobile phones you can not only help the environment but also protect Westonbirt Arboretum?

I don’t use many printer inks and I am unlikely to change my mobile phone for a while but I was staggered to discover that taking part in the Recycling Scheme has already raised over £1600 for the Arboretum since January 2013!  It is very rewarding to know that by recycling my old printer cartridges I am helping to support the Westonbirt treescape at the same time.

It’s so easy! I go to the arboretum quite regularly so I just drop my used cartridges into one of the collection boxes in the Great Oak Hall, the Shop or Plant Centre. You can also pick up a freepost envelope at the Information Desk or order online and post up to three cartridges for free!  It is amazing how simple the process is.

I have been visiting the Arboretum for over twenty years and I always come away from there feeling enriched and so much better for my visit. It is wonderful to be able to contribute to the care of this unique and diverse tree garden by recycling. 

John is a supporter of our recycling scheme.  Click here to join him…