Archive for July, 2016

Overnight Plant Hunter Challenge

Friday, July 29th, 2016

A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood
The mouse saw….a group of teenagers unsure of where they stood

July saw the first Westonbirt Overnight Plant Hunter Challenge in which teams of young people from a range of organisations and youth clubs, navigated their way around a four mile course throughout the arboretum.

On the way, they undertook a number of timed tasks, based on plant hunters past and present, and were scored on teamwork, creativity and skill.

Nineteen young people, some with additional needs, took part in the challenge.

At 9pm, the first teams headed off into the trees and throughout the night they walked and walked, and then walked some more (particularly those teams who, at times, were unsure of which direction they were going in or where they were heading to).

They followed in the footsteps of William Lobb and collected sequoia seeds (although we had carelessly dropped ours into a ‘toxic swamp’); lit a fire using natural materials as David Douglas was required to do; made a herbarium as Joseph Banks did on-board the Endeavour; sorted viable seeds from diseased ones; created a new species of tree (using only newspapers) and made their own version of a Holford family portrait.

youth-portrait

At 2.45 am the torch lights of the last team were spotted making their way across the Downs, where they were greeted with cheers, tea and toast before settling down for a night in the Great Oak Hall.

A few short hours later it was time for a barbeque breakfast and prize giving with Brimsham Green Youth Wing the overall winners.

A huge thank you to all the young people who took part and all the Westonbirt staff, volunteers and visiting group leaders who made the event possible.

Karen Price, Community Youth Officer
www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-community

Tree of the Month: August 2016

Thursday, July 28th, 2016
...with Dendrologist Dan Crowley.

…with Dendrologist Dan Crowley.

What is tree of the month?
Sorbus ‘John Mitchell’

Sorbus'JohnMItchell'
Why is it tree of the month?
Notable for its huge round leaves, this whitebeam, Sorbus ‘John Mitchell’ is a not uncommon sight in cultivation and has its origins here at Westonbirt. It was long considered to be a selection of Sorbus thibetica but is in fact something quite different. One of its parents is likely to be a round-leaved form of our native Sorbus aria and the other is as yet unknown, though is likely of Asian origin. The hybrid first arose here (precise date unknown!) and was named for the first curator of Westonbirt, William John Mitchell.

Sorbus'JohnMItchell'3
Where can I find it?
We currently have two trees in the collection (we are keen to grow more!). Our largest stands close to Mitchell Drive (G25 on the map) and a smaller but equally beautiful tree is located close to another of our famous trees, the Holford pines (Pinus x holfordiana), near Holford Ride (E24).

Sorbus'JohnMItchell'2
Dan Crowley, Dendrologist

Going out with a bang for the final Treefest…

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

This August will see us present what will be the last year of Treefest here at Westonbirt.

Treefest event
The event has had – in various guises and under various names – a fantastic run of 22 years and we’d like to thank all exhibitors, visitors, volunteers and staff that have contributed to the event over the years and who have helped create so many special memories.

Whilst we have worked hard for Treefest to remain competitive in the August Bank Holiday market, the weather and visitor numbers are very unpredictable and visitor numbers have been, on the whole, declining for the last five years and particularly poor for the last two.

Although the event has always been great fun, with over 100 exhibitors Treefest is a complex and time consuming event to deliver. We are going to refocus the resources used to deliver Treefest on ensuring that we can better highlight the many other activities happening throughout the year and provide better customer service to all our visitors.

Although Treefest will not be replaced by another big Bank Holiday event, we’ll still have all of our walks, family events, seasonal trails and workshops for you to enjoy, along with the festive spectacle of Enchanted Christmas, which continues to increase in popularity.

We know that you may have questions about our decision – after two decades the event is fondly regarded by many of you. If you would like to get more detail on any aspect of our decision or our future plans, contact westonbirt@forestry.gsi.gov.uk and your email will be passed onto the relevant person within the team.

Treefest’s last year will be a celebration of the event and the people who have made it so special. We’ll still have over 100 exhibitors, delicious food and exciting new music along with fabulous woodcarving in the heart of the Old Arboretum, fantastic activities for families and the spectacular TIMBERSPORTS® show from event sponsors, STIHL.

Find out more about the event: www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-treefest

Andrew Smith, Arboretum Director

Tree of the month: July 2016

Monday, July 4th, 2016

What is tree of the month?
Stewartia monadelpha

Dan Crowley
Why is it tree of the month?
Stewartia is a member of the tea family, Theaceae, as suggested by the solitary white flowers that appear in summer. S. monadelpha has the smallest flowers in the genus and these are borne in some profusion on branches throughout the crown. The flowers have conspicuous bracteoles which are a useful aid to identification and the tree is also notable for its reddish bark which peels.

Stewartia monadelpha
The genus was named after John Stuart, Earl of Bute (1713-92), though Linnaeus was misled into spelling the generic name ‘Stewartia’ rather than ’Stuartia’ which led to some confusion around which should be used. Though there was widespread use of ‘Stuartia’ in the 19th century, the accepted spelling is Stewartia, as found in modern botanical texts.

Stewartia monadelpha
Where can I find it?
Currently we have just two trees here at Westonbirt. These are both on Circular Drive in the Old Arboretum and enjoying the acidic conditions they are afforded in this area.

Dan Crowley, Dendrologist