ITS VICTORIAN PICTURESQUE landscape and internationally important tree and shrub collection is managed by the Forestry Commission. There are an incredible 15,000 labelled trees including over 2,500 different types of tree and they were collected from Britain, China, North America, Japan, Chile and other temperate climates. The planting started in the 1850s by Robert Holford a rich Victorian landowner who owned the Westonbirt estate. Blue labels indicate Westonbirt’s “champion trees”, the tallest or largest of their kind in Britain; in 2011 there were 79 of these. Within the 17 miles of accessible paths and five national collections, children become young adventurers, adults connect with trees through guided walks, workshops, self-led trails or volunteering. Westonbirt Arboretum consists of three main areas. The Old Arboretum (a dog free zone) is a carefully designed landscape offering beautiful vistas, stately avenues and trees from around the world. Silk Wood (dog-friendly) is an ancient, semi-natural woodland which has exotic plantings throughout its landscape, whilst the Grade I registered Downs hosts species-rich grassland and is a great picnicking location. Westonbirt attracts over 400,000 visitors annually and is open throughout the year. Full details and admission charges can be found on: www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt
This February half term a family event has been organised entitled Conifer Capers. It will be held at the Learning Centre on Monday 12th February to Thursday 15th February from 11am to 3pm. Here you will discover all about these amazing trees and their links with humans. You will also be able to get involved in arty fun and crafty activities, and take an exciting discovery challenge! As winter comes to an end we can look forward to the spring rhododendron, azalea and magnolia displays together with spring flowers including Daffodils, Snowdrops and Blue Bells. Westonbirt is also known worldwide for its spectacular autumn colour when hundreds of Japanese Maple’s and Acers turn every shade of red, yellow and orange. A new Treetop walkway was built last year similar to the Canopy Walkway in Kirstenbosch in the Cape. The Westonbirt Walkway is 300m long and rises slowly to over 13m giving you spectacular views across the arboretum landscape. There are seven interactive hotspots to give visitors of all ages the chance to get up-close with nature and learn more about the fascinating world of trees. For the brave you will find three exhilarating features along the way including a crows next viewing platform and rope bridge. These can be bypassed if you’re seeking a more serene experience. You’ll also get a glimpse of traditional woodland management, as the walkway ends in the heart of Silk Wood – home to coppice workers and charcoal burning!
Take a pair of Binoculars if you like bird-watching and if you’re lucky you may spot one of the resident woodpeckers. If you have difficulty with mobility you can borrowing one of many electric scooters. There is also a restaurant selling a wide range of food, a shop and a large car park.
by: ROBIN WOODWARD