Archive for July, 2015

STIHL Treetop Walkway: the legs have arrived!

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Almost all of the foundations are now in place ready for the legs to be craned into position. Each pair of legs has a foundation which provides stability and a firm base for the Walkway.

This photo shows one of the completed foundations. A galvanised steel plate will sit on top of each foundation; this will be held in position by the four very large bolts and nuts. So large that the contractors have struggled to find a local supplier with a large enough spanner!

A completed foundation

All of the foundations are different even for a pair of legs, this allows for the undulating ground levels and will provide extra support for the exciting features along the walkway. The photo below shows two of the foundations for crow’s nest where there will be extra legs supporting the cantilevered staircase.

Foundations for the crow's nest

We’ve reached an exciting stage; the first delivery of timber legs has arrived from Holland!

First delivery of legs arriving

The deliveries have been carefully planned to ensure the legs arrive unscathed. This is an image showing how each leg will be positioned in the lorry so each leg is protected from the lorry and from each other.

Carefully planned delivery

The legs are carefully lifted from the lorry one by one. Due to their size they are walked in to ensure they don’t swing and catch on anything as they are moved! The legs will be temporarily stored until they are ready to be craned into their final position.

Legs being lifted out of the lorry

Carefully walking the legs from the lorry

The first few legs will be lifted into position in the next few weeks once the plates are in position and the steel sections have arrived. A very large crane will be moving in to complete the first section along with other construction vehicles and materials.

Thank you for bearing with us whilst we create this exciting new experience and for placing your dogs on leads through the construction zone. It’s really appreciated and helps us and our contractors build the Walkway as safely and as quickly as possible. There will be some disruption and temporary footpath closures in the coming months. Sorry for any inconvenience but it will be worth it once you’re up high and enjoying be closer to the trees!

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

Tree of the month: August 2015

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Hybrid wingnut
What is tree of the month?
Pterocarya x rehderiana (hybrid wingnut)

Why is it tree of the month?
This vigorous grower named after the great Taxonomist Alfred Rehder (1863-1949) is a hybrid between the Caucasian (P. fraxinifolia) and Chinese wingnuts (P. stenoptera). The fruit, hanging in racemes, is particularly showy at this time of year.

Where can I find it?
Our specimen at Pool Gate is quite probably one of the original hybrids, with offspring from this growing strong on Sir Georges Walk.

Dan Crowley, Dendrologist

A visit from Yercombe Lodge

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Today I spent time out in the arboretum with one of our community officers, Claire Goulding, as she hosted a visit by Yercombe Lodge, a day centre and residential home for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Claire Goulding with a participant from Yercombe Lodge
The group’s arrival was friendly and relaxed. Claire and her team of volunteers welcomed the group and their accompanying staff and volunteers with tea, coffee and biscuits, before heading out into the arboretum.

Out in the arboretum with staff and participants from Yercombe Lodge
With a day of activities planned in, our first task was to get out into the trees and collect fallen leaves, flowers and feathers in preparation for the afternoon’s craft activity.

Picking out interesting trees along the way
As we made our way around the arboretum, Claire picked out interesting trees to look at, touch and smell – engaging the senses and telling stories along the way.

Making nature windows
With the finds from the arboretum, after lunch the group set about making ‘nature windows’, sandwiching choice bits and pieces between heavily glued tissue paper in patterns which, once dried, look really effective in a window or held up to the light.

Claire with staff and participants from Yercombe Lodge
It was great to see such a diverse group getting so much from their visit here to Westonbirt. I also really enjoyed working with Claire and the dedicated team of volunteers who work so hard to help deliver a community inclusion programme which Westonbirt can really be proud of.

Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer

What a super celebration!

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

We wanted to do something special to mark 30 years of volunteering at the arboretum and it turned out to be a brilliant day.

Cake cutting
We had our biggest turn-out ever for a volunteer social event with 200 people taking part.

During the afternoon choices ranged from spoon carving, a wildflower walk, special tours of the Treetop Walkway construction site, or simply sitting and enjoying a catch-up with friends in the beautiful afternoon sunshine.

Volunteer award presentations
The bubbly flowed for the awards presentations where Simon Toomer (Arboretum Director) and Stephen Segar (Chair, Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum) gave out long-service badges to recognise 5, 10, 15 and 20 years of volunteering at Westonbirt – an amazing contribution.

Cake with icing volunteers
And no party would be complete without Martin’s truly superb hog roast followed by a special celebratory cake (created by Leigh Jane from our Visitor Services team) topped with icing sugar volunteers! All-in-all a really fabulous day in the very best of places – wonderful Westonbirt!

Cheryl Pearson, Volunteer Manager

Old plants, new tricks

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Westonbirt Arboretum’s Tree Team is working with The Duchy College to grow new plants from some of the collection’s oldest and rarest rhododendrons.

Last month Westonbirt welcomed a special delivery of 19 young rhododendrons, from four different taxa, ‘micro-propagated’ and grown for the last four years at The Duchy College’s specialist facilities in Cornwall.

Micro-propagation is a method of vegetative plant production undertaken in laboratory-like, sterilised conditions using petri-dishes and Agar gel. Tiny cells taken from the rhododendrons’ flower buds one to three months before expected flowering were used to grow roots and shoots. One great advantage is that a vast number of plants can be raised from a single fragment of plant material.

The technique means that the team can grow new plants from rare hybrids introduced over a century ago by Westonbirt’s founder Robert Holford and his son, Sir George Holford. The Holfords used selective breeding and seeds collected by famous Victorian plant hunters to create the hybrid varieties, some of which are exclusive to Westonbirt’s collection.

The team at Westonbirt is used to creating and caring for young trees and shrubs at its propagation facilities. 1,511 specimens are housed in the glasshouses, polytunnels, shade house and standing down area at any one time and can remain there from two to five years before being planted out into the collection.

Usually, specimens are either grown from seed collected in the wild (such as on the recent collecting trips to the USA and South Korea), or from techniques such as air-layering. Air layering is when small areas of the branch are wrapped with moss and rooting hormones and sealed in black plastic, convincing the plant that it is underground. The roots are then left to grow on the plant until they are strong enough to be potted. Micro-propagation is a technique generally reserved for very old, more difficult, or less vigorously growing plants.

Westonbirt had its collection of rhododendrons professionally surveyed in 2007. Many were identified then as important Victorian hybrids, and so the programme of getting these rare plants propagated began.

“The rhododendrons we are reproducing are very exciting from an historical point of view; they represent one of the most significant periods of horticultural development at Westonbirt,” said Penny Jones, Propagator.

The young rhododendrons will stay in Westonbirt’s propagation unit for around four years until they are ready to be planted out in the collection.

Tree of the month: July 2015

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Tilia oliveri, image credit Edward Parker

What is the tree of the month?
Tilia oliveri (Oliver’s lime)

Why is it tree of the month?
The beautiful foliage with a pale underside, along with the large flower bract make this species quite distinctive. Soon to flower, this is most definitely a seasonal highlight.

Where can I find it?
The champion grows on Specimen Avenue, whilst there are other mature trees in Acer Glade and on Holford Ride.

Dan Crowley, Dendrologist