Archive for May, 2014

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners: Crinodendron hookerianum

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Well, there is still plenty of spring colour to enjoy here at Westonbirt and the flowers will keep coming through the summer, though not in the abundance we are spoilt with in spring. A regular seasonal performer doing its thing just now is Crinodendron hookerianum, known as the lantern tree.

Crinodendron hookerianum Crinodendron hookerianum

This one prefers a little shade and grows here amid the Rhododendrons and numerous other spring stunners. Come see for yourself – and let the light in!!

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners: Cercis siliquastrum

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Looking good out in the arboretum today are over 15,000 trees, though perhaps some more obviously than others. Of those are examples of Cercis siliquastrum, commonly known as the Judas tree. As legend would have it that an individual of this species was what Judas Escariot (of Bible fame) hung himself from. However, I prefer to highlight the more savoury (or sweet) feature that the tree is known for, the phenomenon known as cauliflory, where flowers are produced directly from the stem, as opposed young branches or the current years growth.

Cercis siliquastrum Cercis siliquastrum

It is in fact more a feature associated with tropical plants including Theobroma cacao, which translates as the ‘food of the gods’, though perhaps known to more of us simply as chocolate!! Tasty.

Restoring our ha-ha!

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Ha Ha. An expression often used to represent laughter. However a ha-ha is also a landscape design feature that creates a barrier to things such as livestock, while preserving uninterrupted views.  The name “ha-ha” derives from the unexpected and amusing moment of discovery when, on approach, the recessed wall becomes visible. Here at Westonbirt we are privileged to have a ha-ha that acts as a boundary around the Old Arboretum. A map from 1881 clearly illustrates the ha-ha, however it is estimated it was built in the 1820’s during the establishment of the old arboretum.

Currently work is being undertaken to clear and expose the wall so its condition can be assessed. The estate volunteers have been blessed with fine weather for this work as they use tools such as scythes to clear away the bramble and nettles, exposing the historically significant feature. Only hand tools are being used so as to be sympathetic to any wildlife that has made its home around the ha-ha, being careful to cause as little disturbance to the structure of the wall as possible.

Estate-Volunteers Ha Ha

Working on the Ha Ha The Ha Ha

Plans are in place for its complete restoration in the near future.

Sarah Millard, Volunteer Supervisor.

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners: eye-catching Enkianthus

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Among the many attributes of members of the Enkianthus genus are the bell-like flowers. Here at Westonbirt, particularly on Main Drive in the Old Arboretum and Willesley Drive in Silk Wood, they are really on song right now!

Enkianthus chinensis Enkianthus deflexus

Enkianthus campanulatus Enkianthus campanulatus f. albiflorus

Dendrologist Dan’s spring stunners: Davidia involucrata

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

I have chosen to highlight this one this week as our largest, oldest specimen (close to Main Drive and Loop Walk in the Old Arboretum) is looking quite fine in bract right about now. Our other specimens are at various stages and are well worth keeping a close eye on!

Davidia involucrata. Quite simply, what a tree!!

Davidia Davidia

Davidia Davidia

Also looking good: everything else!!

The Westonbirt Project – Community Inclusion update

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

The role of the Community Inclusion team is to enable a greater number of people, from under-represented groups, to experience the arboretum and to ‘connect with trees’.

Since we started in January, we have been busy consulting with a wide range of groups and organisations to discover what they would like to engage with at the arboretum. The groups have come from a wide range of backgrounds from a catchment area of up to an hours drive from the arboretum and so include both rural and urban areas.

Youth Inclusion

The past four months have involved asking young people what would make them want to come to the arboretum. Their answer – anything adventurous where they can put themselves to the test, i.e. den building (and sleeping in them), bush craft skills, learning how to use tools, wide games, night hikes and team challenges. Over the next few months we will be piloting some of these activities with a range of groups, including Tetbury Guides, Hanham Youth Centre and South Gloucestershire Youth Board to test out what works well.

We have been working with our coppicing team over the last three months and are now excited to start trailing a number of community coppice programmes from early June. The community coppice programme aims to provide groups with an introduction to woodland management and tool use as well as bring back into use some of our derelict coppice sites. Groups signed up so far include Turning Point, Bristol Drugs Project and Nelson Trust.

Community Inclusion

Much of the consultation with adult community groups has been taking place to pilot two brand new facilitated visits here at the Arboretum.

Activities aim to bring together individuals in a social, creative way through utilising the arboretum’s natural environment to enhance their health and wellbeing. Groups will explore the arboretum unique environment through their senses and learn about nature printing techniques or how to create a hand balm with products from trees along with a facilitated hand massage workshop. Groups booked on so far include; Uplands Care Service and Gloucester Rural Community Council and Patchway Dementia Awareness Alliance.

The outreach programme, ‘Westonbirt on The Move’ has been building momentum now with over 10 different care and nursing homes booked to participate with the trial over the next few months. Through working with activity coordinators and speaking with the residents to find out what would be most engaging, the programme will follow a reminiscent theme. It’ll aim to invigorate memories and connect individuals with our trees through scent, touch and sound. Watch this space for updates!

If you would like any more information about any of these projects, please feel free to contact Karen Price (Community Youth Officer) or Claire Goulding (Community Inclusion Officer)  on 0300 067 4854.