Preparing for the Plant Hunters’ Academy, by Caroline Bennett, Education Officer

During the school holidays the excitement doesn’t cease here in the learning department. If anything, we are even busier – with four family events running over four weeks, each week with a different family trail and set of crafts.

Young Plant Hunters' Academy crafts
During the flurry of our High Fibres event this week, I have been preparing for our biggest event of the summer – the Plant Hunters’ Academy – which runs throughout Treefest.

Part of this preparation involves the writing of the family trail which will be available to families to pick up and follow at the event.

As always with trail writing, I have discovered way more interesting information than I can possibly fit onto the trail boards.

I have been learning so much about the Victorian plant hunters who brought tree seeds from different countries back to Britain, who in short, enabled places like Westonbirt Arboretum to become the important collections they are today.

The tales I have read are all amazing. Some are definitely not suitable for the family trail – rumours of death due to syphilis, eye witness reports of torture and a vivid account of animal cruelty that greatly upset the plant hunter who wrote about it and made me wince while reading.

Others have made me laugh and interrupt my fellow workers to read them out – the tale of Ernest Wilson having to share a blanket with four muddy irate chickens is by far my favourite.

Young Plant Hunters' Academy trail
I struggled to decide how to structure the trail. Should I do it chronologically? A stop for each plant hunter perhaps? And then which plant hunters should I include – or more importantly, which can I bear to leave out?

In the end, I realised that I had plenty of my own questions about the lives of plant hunters and I decided to try to answer those questions in the stops of the trail.

Want to find out what my questions are? What were the answers? You’ll have to read my trail to find out!

Useful links
Visit the Treefest website for more info and great value early bird tickets:
www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-treefest

Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum go free to Treefest.
Find out how to become a member…

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