Driving the mobility shuttle
We're currently trialling a new shuttle service, to help visitors who need a little extra help getting around get up to the edge of the Old Arboretum and café. This service could not run without the help of our amazing volunteer drivers.
As part of our ‘Volunteer Take Over’ celebration for Volunteers’ Week we asked volunteer shuttle driver, Dave, to share some of his experiences on the shuttle.
Dave, what made you join the Westonbirt Shuttle Drivers?
I’ve been a member of Westonbirt Arboretum for some years now, and I started volunteering for the Welcome team back in April last year. When I heard that a shuttle scheme was being proposed I was eager to join that as well, as it is very important to me that everyone has the opportunity to come and visit the arboretum. The arboretum has always been a very special place for me and my family, and I want to encourage others to come and enjoy it too.
When the car park was moved, some less mobile visitors struggled to make the walk from the car park to the edge of the Old Arboretum and the restaurant. The shuttle plays an important role in ensuring that these visitors can continue to enjoy walks through the trees, by giving them a lift up to the arboretum itself or to the restaurant.
How has the scheme changed since you started?
We’ve just launched a new route for the shuttle – I tried it out for the first time the other day and I think it’s wonderful!
The shuttle now takes a slightly longer route round the Downs, but takes in more of the picturesque landscape and you can see flashes of colour through the trees. There are also new short walking routes from the stops, so people can have a bit of a walk, and then re-join the shuttle later to get back to the entrance or go to the restaurant. These short walks take in some of the best of the arboretum – I think my favourite one has to be the walk up to Acer Glade.
Who uses the shuttle?
People who need a bit of extra help getting up to the restaurant and main facilities. You don’t have to be a blue badge holder to use the shuttle, but we do try to keep it for those who really need it and their families
What’s it like driving the shuttle?
Well it only goes about 9 miles an hour, so it’s a tad slower than your average car!
One of the best things about it is talking to the visitors, and hearing their stories. Some people come from miles away and it is great to be able to help them have a wonderful day out with tips on the best places to see and more information on areas like the Downs.
I’ve learnt so much more about the Downs since I became a shuttle driver. It’s so much more than a divider between the Old Arboretum and Silk Wood; it plays an important part in bio diversity, and is a habitat that is nationally in decline. The team here work hard to conserve it and preserve it for future generations.
There are also cool quirky facts I’ve discovered - I never knew that Duke’s Cut Gate to so named because that is where the Duke of Beaufort used to ride through on his hunt back in the day!
Where is your favourite place in the arboretum?
It has to be a tossup between Acer Glade – the colours in the autumn and spring are just superb – and Silk Wood in spring when the bluebells are out.