Archive for February, 2016

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre: a glimpse inside the new mess building

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

Work is currently underway on what will become the new Wolfson Tree Management Centre. The new facility will provide all that Westonbirt’s expert tree team needs to manage the tree collection.

Work is now taking place to complete the interior of the Tree Team’s new mess building.

The entrance to the building is covered by a substantial overhang, which acts as a big porch as you enter and exit the building.

Polycarbonate wall
Inside, one of the most striking features is the polycarbonate end wall – this lets lots of diffused daylight into the main space which the team will use for tea breaks and meetings.

Plywood ceiling
The ceiling of the building is plywood sheeting – this is soon to be varnished, and the lights installed where you currently see dangling cables.

The heart of any mess room is the kitchen. It’s nearly finished and the worktops will be installed in the next few weeks! Look closely and you’ll see that the taps above the sink are made of copper piping with stop taps… a simple solution and alternative to off-the-peg kitchen fittings.

The kitchen will be an area for food preparation (the fuel essential for a busy arborist!) and a washing machine where kit and ropes will be washed to improve their condition.

Sophie Nash, Project Manager

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre: One building complete!

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Work is currently underway on what will become the new Wolfson Tree Management Centre. The new facility will provide all that Westonbirt’s expert tree team needs to manage the tree collection.

The Machinery Store

Machinery store
We have the keys! The first of the three building projects for Phase Two is now complete and the tree team have started to move in.

Machinery store  polycarbonate wall
The polycarbonate wall allows lots of natural light into the building, just inside is the tree team’s workshop where they will maintain their vehicles and will keep their tools. The storage units and pressure washer are now in place ready for use.

Machinery store - interior
The vehicle doors let lots of daylight into the space. We installed several doors so they can drive all the way through the building to access Silk Wood and the Old Arboretum without having to reverse out of the building. This will mean there will no longer be a need to unclip the wood chipper and trailers each morning and evening, so the team can spend more time out in the tree collection.

Machinery store - interior
Now even with some vehicles inside it (these vans belong to the electricians, but will be replaced with tractors once the team are in!) the building is really starting to look like a machinery store. The timber frame still stands out even with the lighting and equipment inside the building. It’s a great large open plan space using arboretum timber, hopefully an upgrade compared to the tree team’s existing tractor shed and mess cabin.


The Mess Building

On a daily basis the new mess building is changing quicker than we can blog!

Mess building
The entire building has been clad in oak which was felled as part of the management of the coppice coups in Silk Wood; we couldn’t have used more locally sourced timber! Up close each piece of cladding is slightly different and you can see the patterns in the oak. The new machinery store is just visible behind the mess building. The box on the end of the building is a bat feeding perch, much more in keeping than an off-the-shelf bat box.

View from staff car park
The tree team’s new kitchen is on the right of this picture. A deck area has been created and is currently being used by the contractors. When the summer comes other staff and volunteers can join the tree team for lunch.
Now the scaffolding is down you can clearly see the shape of the building and how it fits with the machinery store behind it. The two buildings have been designed to complement each other; the roof of the Mess Building allows more winter sun into the yard behind. The Mess Building also has horizontal cladding and a curved roof which took inspiration from the Welcome Building.

Mess building - polycarbonate wall
The end elevation of the Mess Building has been clad with polycarbonate which matches the new machinery store. This allows more natural light into the building as this end will be used by the tree team as communal space for breaks and a space for meetings.

Inside the building the kitchen is almost complete and the ceiling is being finished. More pictures of the interior will follow in the next blog!

Many thanks to our fantastic team of volunteers who have helped the contractors with the Mess Building.

Tree of the month: February 2016

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Picea brachytyla

What is tree of the month?

Picea brachytyla – Sargent spruce.

Why is it tree of the month?

Hailing from the high mountains of Asia, Sargent spruce is among the most attractive members of the genus. The two bright white, coalescing stomatal bands on the undersides of the needles are a stand out character. Named after Charles Sprague Sargent, former director of the Arnold Arboretum, Massachusetts, USA, it was first introduced by the Gloucestershire born Ernest Wilson. Relatively common in botanic gardens, the species is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN red list.

Where can I find it?

Fine, large specimens can be seen on Morley Ride in the Old Arboretum and in Sand Earth, Silk Wood. Younger examples can be found close to Loop Walk in the Old Arboretum and along Willesley Drive (var. complanata) in Silk Wood.

Dan Crowley, Dendrologist

Baby giant

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

One of the first plantings of 2016, this young Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) was planted on the downs area of Westonbirt. It is the first Giant Redwood of Westonbirt origin to be successfully germinated and grown on site.

Cairn Hurst with a Giant Redwood.

With a success rate of around 25% for seed collected from Redwoods in their native habitat of California, getting home-grown seed to germinate was never going to be an easy task. Keen to give it a go anyway in late autumn 2013 I gathered a handful of cones from the Old Arboretum and decided the best approach would be to replicate conditions found in the wild.

Looking to mimic a forest fire (Giant Redwoods in the wild are protected from fire by their thick insulating bark) I gathered a small pile of redwood twigs to which I set fire. I then placed several cones and some loose seed on a sheet of perforated tinfoil and held it over the fire for a couple of minutes, taking care not to turn the seed to charcoal!

The smoke, as well as heat from the fire, is thought to play a part in breaking seed dormancy. Both loose seed and seeds from the cones were collected and placed in a container in the fridge for a month, a process known as cold stratification; whereby winter conditions are replicated in order to break seed dormancy.

After the month had passed I met with Westonbirt’s propagator Penny Jones to pot up the seed and give them the best possible start in life. We filled two pots with seed compost and scattered the seed evenly on the surface. A fine covering of washed grit was added to help reduce moisture loss while letting the soil breathe. We watered both pots, moved them to the greenhouse and crossed our fingers in the hope that in a couple of months a few young Redwoods would appear.

A couple of months later only one seedling had germinated. One seedling from some two or three hundred seeds! During the following two years Penny expertly looked after the little tree, potting it up a few times and moving it from the greenhouse to the polytunnel to the shade house, where it slowly acclimatized to the weather outdoors and grew at an astonishing rate.

On Tuesday 12 January 2016 Ken Waite and I planted the young Redwood on the downs area near the Welcome Building. It has grown over two feet in two years; hopefully it will grow at the same rate for many years to come and become a welcoming figure for everyone visiting Westonbirt.

Cairn Hurst, Arborist, Westonbirt Tree Team

Arborist Cairn Hurst successfully germinated Giant Redwood seed by replicating the forest fire conditions of their…

Posted by Westonbirt Arboretum on Tuesday, 2 February 2016