Unveiling the new Community Shelter

Posted: May 25, 2022 at 15:46 pm

After years of planning, and thanks to members and funders for giving this project a chance to come to life, the brand-new Community Shelter has been unveiled at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum.

Taking just over five months to build the shelter will provide a lasting, calm and protective space for participants of the Community Programme, sitting comfortably in its woodland setting.

Designed ‘by the community for the community’, members of Westonbirt’s Community Programme have been integral to the shelter’s creation, from design and throughout the build. Over 600 people from under-represented audiences undertook a range of traditional green timber carpentry techniques, with participants’ various skills levels carefully considered at all stages. These activities included steam bending timber and producing hand-made shingles for the roof.

Community Shelter

“Our new Community Shelter gives us a permanent, inspiring place here at Westonbirt for our community groups; a space where participants can feel at ease. We included future users of the Community Shelter through each stage of its creation, which helped build not only ownership, but the self-confidence, pride and aspirations of everyone involved. This is one of many ways that we are supporting positive mental health and wellbeing through an inclusive programme of inspiring activities.”

Andrew Smith, Director of Westonbirt, The National Arboretum

The shelter’s design and build are the result of a unique partnership between architects Invisible Studio, timber structure specialists Xylotek and hundreds of people from community groups, as well as Forestry England volunteers and staff with the support of the project’s funders.

Community Shelter

“The real-life, interesting, fun and perceived 'riskiness' of the shelter build has been hugely motivating for the members of our group. While sometimes being a bit anxious about the tools, they have all had tremendous fun and learnt so much. They are moving on eager to learn more and try new things in all areas of their life.”

Jude Shackell, leader of a participating community group, the Apperley Centre

An inspiring and ‘armadillo-shaped’ building, the shelter also demonstrates what can be achieved with locally sourced timber and materials. The timber used to build the shelter was sourced from oak and western red cedar trees felled as part of the arboretum’s sustainable woodland management. The timber was also milled on-site at Westonbirt Woodworks and the roof shingles were produced by Westonbirt coppicers, community groups, volunteers and staff.

Community Shelter

The Community Shelter project wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the generous donations from local companies, donations from third parties, trusts and grants plus fund-raising by The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum charity. With generous help from supporters, The Friends raised a magnificent £105,000 from a mix of external grant funding and membership donations, in addition to significant legacy gifts left to Forestry England and investment funding. With special thanks in particular to the Players of the Postcode Lottery, Herman Miller Cares Foundation, Cotswolds National Landscape, Kirby Laing Foundation, Gloucestershire County Council and Barnwood Trust.

Community Shelter

The shelter as part of the Community Programme will continue to play a vital role at Westonbirt, to help connect a broader range of people with trees whilst at the same time improving their quality of life. This is far more than just a shelter in the woods.

So of course we needed an opening event to celebrate this wonderful achievement bringing many of the people involved in the project from start to finish together.

Thank you once again for your incredible support! We look forward to sharing stories with you from community participants using the shelter in the future.