Sophie Nash is Project Manager for The Westonbirt Project. She organises the logistics of the project, working with architects and project managers for various elements to deliver the works.
From early April 2014, we’ll be removing the current car park to restore the area to wildflower rich grassland.
The relocation of car parking away from the Grade I historic landscape has been a long-term ambition of the arboretum and is supported by English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Gloucestershire Environmental Trust.
The work will involve closing the current car park so that we can remove the existing hard standing and road surfaces from the car park.
We’ll then make good the ground using soil which was removed during the construction of the Welcome Building – much more sustainable than bringing it in from elsewhere!
You may have seen this mound of soil near to the car park, waiting for the time when the restoration of this part of our landscape could begin.
We like to think of this heap of soil as our very own locally sourced ‘seed bank’ – it’s packed full of grass and wildflower seeds which are indigenous to the arboretum’s grassland.
We’ll also have a volunteer team helping to kick start the process of returning the landscape to grassland, by ‘strewing’.
This is a process which involves cutting grass and wildflowers back with traditional hand tools, then spreading the resulting seed-packed hay across the ground so that species sourced here at Westonbirt can populate the restored area.
Restoring grassland takes time, and it will be a while before what we now know as our car park blends seamlessly into the surrounding downs landscape – though as you can see from the artist’s impression, the results should be beautiful and well worth the wait!
We’ll be working hard during the period of downs restoration work to manage alternative parking arrangements and minimise the disruption to visitors.