Archive for April, 2014

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners: Rhododendron quinquefolium

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

There is far too much excitement amongst the plants to attempt to mention it all here, so I shall stick to just the one today. Though suffice to say, this one is a cracker!! A reliable performer, Rhododendron quinquefolium is a quite beautiful azalea, and an old plant is looking fantastic in full flower just now on Circular Drive, at the end of Sir Georges Walk.

The flowers emerge after the leaves, which are usually in whorls of 5 (hence the specific epithet) and with a beautiful reddish border, they are a real feature in themselves. A young plant in Sand Earth sporting only a few flowers provide an opportunity for visitors to Silk Wood to admire more of the foliar display.

Silk Wood Rhododendron

Rhododendron Rhododendron

As for everything else, well, you’ll just have to come and get amongst it!!

A Welcome Building update

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Sophie Nash is Project Manager for the Westonbirt Project.

The Welcome Building has been changing dramatically over a very short space of time and will continue to do so in the coming weeks.

Welcome Building

The scaffolding has just been removed. This is a photo of the front entrance to the Welcome Building.  

Welcome Building

The side of the Welcome Building, the opening to the left side is the new mobility scooter store. A new sliding door in matching cladding will soon conceal the opening when closed.

Welcome Building

The rear of the building. The ground workers are busy preparing the base for the Forest of Dean pennant stone floor in the central entrance foyer.


The office has now been painted, ceiling finished, front plates of plug and data sockets have been fitted and the kitchen is about to be installed.


Urinals have been fitted in the mens toilets. We have two at child height and a low sink for children to use.

Ladies toilets Ladies toilets Ladies toilets

 A selection of photos of the ladies toilets. The wall tiles are all in place ready for grouting, all the sinks and taps are and the baby changing unit has been fitted in the end cubicle.

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners: radiant Rhododendrons!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Among the numerous Rhododendron species and cultivars in flower here currently, are two ‘firsts’ for Westonbirt.

While it is possible that these species grew here in the distant past, flowering examples, the Himalayan of R. sinogrande and R. falconeri here are not known to us. The former is in Savill Glade and the latter further into the Old Arboretum on Loop Walk.

Sinogrande Falconri

Encouraged by the favourable growing conditions afforded them last year, these showy flowered, large leaved beauties are well worth checking out!

An update from the Membership team…

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

The Membership Team would like to apologise for any delays processing applications this month.

We are implementing an exciting new database which involves several days software training. We hope to be back up to speed soon.

This new system will also provide one of the links to the new Welcome Building which will make it easier and quicker for our members to enter the arboretum. 

Please bear with us during this transitional phase.

Many thanks,

Bev and Kelly.

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners: fantastic foliar flushes!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Amid the endless shades of green seen as fresh foliage emerges, are equally wonderful tones of pink, purple and red, as some of our trees put on a colour show equal to that of autumn. I went out and about yesterday to capture some of the leaf delights found at this time of year.

Acer amamiense Sorbus-keissleri

Aesculus x neglecta 'Erythroblastos'  Liriodendron chinense

Come and see them for yourselves!

A Welcome Building update…

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Sophie Nash is the Project Manager for the Westonbirt Project.

It has been a while since my last Welcome Building blog and a lot has been changing inside and outside over the last few weeks!


The cladding is almost finished! This is a photo of the wall inside the entrance foyer, opposite the ticketing window.

A close-up of the cladding.

Information centre Information CentreInformation Centre

Information Centre 

The photos above show the recent progress of the new ‘Christopher Mitchell Information Centre’. This is where the exciting new interpretation will be along with our staff and volunteers.


A photo of the new office and kitchen for staff and volunteers. It’s oddly quite exciting to see the fronts of the plug sockets being attached!

Ladies toilets Ladies toilets Ladies toilets
A series of photos of the ladies toilets. The internal ceiling and light fittings are now complete, the toilet cubicles and the vanity units are now being installed.

The ins and outs of the Welcome Building…

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

By Paul, Head of Visitor Attraction.

You might have seen the building work going on in passing, but I thought it could be useful to tell you a little bit more about what the new Welcome Building will hold..

Facilities at the Welcome Building will include:

Mobility buggies and wheelchairs
Information desk for general enquiries
Dog tie-up

Other facilities at Westonbirt will stay where they are. Visitor Services by the Great Oak Hall will retain First Aid, Lost Property and help with general enquiries. The Westonbirt Shop, Plant Centre and Restaurant will all remain as they are.

All of the Welcome Building ticket gates are suitable for buggies and pushchairs, the central gate is the widest to allow group entry but automation on all the gates can be overridden. The ticket gates can be set in either direction. So, on the morning of a busy autumn day more lanes will be ‘in’ and in the afternoon more can be ‘out’.

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

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

Not to be forgotten, the building will also be beautiful! Throughout, the building has been designed with attention to detail and high design standards. The floor is made of pennant stone from the Forest of Dean, the main frame is of Douglas fir, the roof shingles and external walls are made of Western red cedar. Its aesthetics are as important as its functions: it reminds us of the arboretum’s history while exciting us about the present and pointing to the future.

The restoration has begun…

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

By Sophie Nash, Project Manager.

Work has begun on the final element of Phase One of the Westonbirt Project, the Downs Restoration.

The contractors have started to remove old footpaths; the stone material will be used to form the base layer of our two new footpaths. The new footpaths start at the Welcome Building and will lead visitors to the Great Oak Hall or towards Silk Wood and on to the restaurant.

Footpath creation

From this week the contractors will start removing the existing surfaced visitor car park.

Existing car park

If you want to know more about the downs restoration please visit our Downs restoration pages.

For more information on what to expect on-site please see our Recreation Managers blog…

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners: cheerful cherries

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Some of you will know that our Prunus sargentii on Broad Drive is looking rather good just at the moment. Photographs posted to Facebook last week illustrated this nicely I took a few more this morning confirming that this is still the case!

Prunus sargentii Prunus sargentii

The new foliage is coming along now, complimenting the flowers really well – lovely stuff! Native to Japan and Sakhalin and introduced to Britain in 1893, our venerable specimen is an early planting and a real favourite of many of here at Westonbirt.

The tree can of course be visited via the new path which passes through the Cherry Collection, which though now more diverse than just cherries, boasts some fine flowering examples at the moment! These images below were also taken this morning… Well worth a walk in Silk Wood!!

Japanese cherry Yoshino cherry Prunus shirotae

All things are difficult before they become easy…

Friday, April 4th, 2014

So said the Persian poet Saadi. I don’t know what experience he had of running a visitor attraction during a major engineering exercise, but he sounds fully prepared for the job to me!

As we get closer to the opening of the new Welcome Building and the associated car park in late June, we face the inevitable job of carrying on whilst all the various areas of work are brought together. We have avoided too much disruption to the day to day so far, but the next stage promises to be more of a challenge.

The main difference that will be immediately apparent to our regular visitors, is that it will be necessary for us to vacate the current car park. The reason for this is that the new easy-access routes from the Welcome Building to the restaurant, shop, cafe and Great Oak Hall run through the site of the existing car park. We also anticipate using the stone from the current car park to help make the base layer for the new footpath routes. This will help us to reduce the cost and also improve the environmental credentials of the build by not needing to import so many more lorry loads of material for the footpath construction.

A key part of the major works going on at Westonbirt currently have been about protecting the listed landscape of the Downs as well as the tree collection. This work will enable us to fulfil this and create a much more fitting sense of arrival into the National Arboretum.

Our team are busy putting in a diversion route for traffic and pedestrians, including constructing a temporary short stretch of road, quite a lot of fences and many, many signs. We are committed to making the visitor experience as pleasant and as comfortable as we possibly can during this stage. I think the transformation of the existing car park back into the sort of wildflower-strewn downland the Victorian progenitors of Westonbirt would have seen will be one of the most visually satisfying parts of this whole process.

It may not look too pretty at times and we are sorry for any inconvenience, but please do bear with us as we make this transition to the kind of place with the sort of facilities we can all be truly proud of.


Recreation Manager