Archive for August, 2014

Our evolving landscape

Friday, August 29th, 2014

If you have ventured into Silk Wood recently you may well have noticed our Tree Team hard at work in Maple Loop, which is an area was that was once a forest research plot packed full of hybrid larch trees. Today the mature larch trees that remain provide the perfect conditions for our young maples and other specimens. Over the last 10 years, we have been gradually thinning the larch to make space for our expanding collection and to help reduce the risk of a further infection of Phytophthora ramorum, a fungal disease that has sadly killed lots of forest trees; larch are especially susceptible.

Now that the under-planting of exotic trees and shrubs along Maple Loop are growing well and require more light, we are carrying out a second thinning to open up the over-storey. Our Tree Team are felling carefully selected larch trees, leaving the best to continue protecting the young plants around them. Some larch will even be left to mature as individual trees in their own right. Eventually when the young specimens have fully established, they will form a fantastic picturesque landscape as used to great effect elsewhere in the arboretum. We hope that one day Maple Loop will be enjoyed as much as Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum is today.

The trees we cut down may be gone – but they won’t be forgotten; each felled tree will form part of the timber frame for our brand new Tree Management Centre which is being built under Phase Two of the Westonbirt Project! We think this is a fitting end to their time in this area of the arboretum, which began in the early 1970’s as part of a number of genetics and tree breeding experiments carried out here.  

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Mark Ballard

On to the next Project…

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The Welcome Building has been open nearly two months now and is beginning to feel like it’s always been here. We are continuing to make small tweaks here and there; some of you may have noticed the new arboretum map and Window on Westonbirt images.
Now that the majority of Phase One is complete we are moving full steam ahead with Phase Two, the Treetop Walkway and Tree Management Centre…

Behind the scenes the Project Team have been busy working with architects and the Tree Team to develop the plans for the two new buildings which form the Tree Management Centre. Work started back in April with meetings between the architects, engineers and the Tree Team to design a Tractor Shed and new Mess Building. We are now about to start work on the ground works which will form the new ‘yard’ and foundations for the Tractor Shed. Once complete work will begin on the unusual timber frame, using timber from Westonbirt and other local FC forests.

The detailed designs for the Treetop Walkway are also under way. Glenn Howells Architects and Buro Happold are currently detailing the handrail, balustrade (side panels) and the walkway legs. Currently there are 60 legs in total for the Walkway, varying in length from just over 1 metre up to 12 metres!

Project Manager

Community Inclusion – Multi-Sensory Outreach programme

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

‘Westonbirt on the Move’

Over the last six months I have been piloting new activities in care homes and community day care centres around the local counties. I have built links and relationships with the care home managers and activity coordinators, trying to create an ‘outreach’ activity programme that would be suited to their residents/clients.

I have built stronger links with the Alzheimer’s Society South West. To date I have eight more sessions booked with different support groups in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire area.

I now have a team of five fantastic volunteers that are helping to support the outreach sessions.

My work is about involving older or vulnerable adults that may not be able to physically visit the arboretum, to still have the experience of Westonbirt with a series of tailored multi-sensory activities held at their care homes or day centres.

The focus of the activities is all about reminiscence, creating conversation within the group, sharing anecdotes and triggering memories.

When I go to the homes, we do all sorts of activities as a group from:

  • Touch – a range tactile and tangible artefacts including our tree specimens from our nursery to handle and explore
  • Sound- natural sound activities, connecting visual pictures with sounds i.e. birdsong, wind blowing, heavy rain etc.
  • Scent – a quiz-like game through passing around scents of different tree essential oils and giving clues.
  • Sight – a selection of photographs of Westonbirt Arboretum to share and discuss.

So far I have trialled the activities at nine different care homes and day care centres. I evaluate what activities are the most engaging and popular through gaining feedback from residents and staff. I will be refining some of the resources within the next few months developing the digital technology resources to create ‘soundscapes’ of Westonbirt, apothecary scented jars, textual photography and much more!

It has been really interesting for me to talk to so many elder people who have such a wealth of knowledge that very often we don’t know about or appreciate. I am learning more and more through discussions that come up during the sessions. Care home residents have had backgrounds in carpentry, cabinet making and wood turning. Others have travelled extensively around the world and have the most amazing stories and sometimes personal connections with nature.

Feedback from care staff:

‘The activity got residents talking to each other (which is a hard thing to do!) and has also been a talking point since. Everyone enjoyed the visit and found it interesting, improving their wellbeing in general.’  Katherine, Ashley House Care Home, Cirencester.

I have had some wonderful comments too:

‘It reminded me of my childhood. We use to know every flower, every tree, we use to go and look at everything in the countryside. We use to look at bird nests when we were supposed to be on our way to church.’  Doris, Ashgrove Care Home.

‘I went to Westonbirt Girls School. My great grandfather used to drive Robert Holford. The Handkerchief tree was my absolute favourite tree.’ Helen, Ilsom House Care Home.

‘I used to walk along the parameter of Westonbirt with my husband…we’d always have a lovely afternoon.’  Margaret, Hunters Care Home.

Community1 Community2

Community Inclusion Officer

Handpicked market stalls with Love Food Festival… must be Treefest!

Monday, August 11th, 2014


This year, Love Food Festival will be taking over most of Maple Avenue. With their handpicked market stalls of local producers, there will be lots of exciting food to take home with you and some will be cooking and selling some mouth watering food throughout the day for you to eat, from barbecued ribs to vegetarian tapas and Portuguese pastries. More details about this years producers can be found on the Love Food Festival website. 
We have some new and exciting caterers this year as well as some happy returners!

Over in the picnic area we will have Martin and Tracy of MDB Catering. They will be bringing their very popular hog roast, plus baked potatoes and baguettes with various fillings.

Peradon Farm has moved out of the Foodhall and into the picnic area this year with their organic burgers and sausages in delicious fresh baps. 

Peradon Organic Farm- credit Paul Groom

New to Treefest is The Strawberry Chariot, selling cream teas and strawberries with fresh cream. Yummy! 

Strawberry Chariot

Also new to Treefest is a local company, Café Chameleon who will mainly be serving vegetarian world food, such as African, Mexican and Indian.

For those who like something cold, Winstones Ice-Cream who are local to us, will be selling various flavours throughout the festival. These are all made using organic milk.
Last but not least we have Stroud Brewery in the music marquee and picnic area. They will have various local ales and lagers on offer.

Stroud Brewery3- credit Paul Groom

Julie McKellar
Events Co-ordinator