Advice for self-guided schools
At Westonbirt the safety of visiting groups is paramount and we are always happy to answer any questions you may have on health and safety issues.
The following guidance is intended to help you understand the general risks associated with a visit to Westonbirt and enable you to plan accordingly.
We offer all group leaders a free preliminary visit to the Arboretum to familiarise themselves with the site and its facilities.
NB: this document is provided for guidance only – you should carry out your own assessment. It is your responsibility to ensure your accompanying adults are aware of health and safety issues.
There are a number of inherent risks involved when taking groups outside such as slips and falls. While the Collection is inspected regularly for hazards, we have found that accidents most often occur as a result of poor behaviour. To this end we recommend that you prepare your class before they arrive by discussing with them appropriate behaviour. In particular we recommend you cover the following issues:
• walk rather than run
• be careful when picking up and carrying fallen sticks
• look out for hidden holes and trip hazards – especially when off footpaths
The Arboretum is an outdoor environment and your students should come dressed appropriately. We recommend as a minimum:
• Waterproof, sturdy shoes with non-slip soles. Open-toed sandals should not be worn.
• Waterproof coat
• Warm jumper
On top of this we recommend that students coming at particular times of year also bring/wear:
• Gloves, hat and scarves
• Extra pair of socks
• Sun hat
• Sun cream
• Extra water
• Within Silk Wood, dogs are permitted off the lead. Groups using Silk Wood (e.g. when using our orienteering courses) should therefore be aware that they may encounter dogs.
• Within the picnic area and main facilities dogs are allowed but must be on a lead.
• The Old Arboretum is an area where dogs are not allowed.
Emergency Contacts, Lost Children and First aid
Mobile telephones have poor reception at the Arboretum. Should you need to contact Forestry Commission staff during your visit please go to either the Visitor Services cabin or Great Oak Hall where staff and volunteers can alert the Duty Manager and/or Learning Manager. If necessary they can also contact the emergency services.
The Arboretum has a lost child procedure in case of emergencies. In the first incidence you should speak with a member of staff who will organise searches. All staff have been checked through the CRB disclosures system.
The Arboretum has an Extreme Weather Policy. We recommend that you contact the learning team should severe weather be forecast for the day of your visit.
The learning centre may only be used independently by prior agreement with the learning team. Separate guidance is available for the learning centre in these incidences.
Hygiene and plant hazards
The Arboretum has a number of hand-washing facilities and you should stress the importance of good hygiene before your visit.
Ticks and Lyme disease
Leaders should be aware that ticks can occasionally be found in the arboretum (as in all woodland, moorland and grassy areas) and it is advised that a check is carried out after the visit to ensure that no ticks have attached themselves to the body. If a tick is found, it should be firmly removed with tweezers as soon as possible. Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. Should you require further information, please contact the learning team.
There is separate guidance for groups using the orienteering courses. We strongly recommend you arrange a pre-visit with a member of the learning team to discuss the courses.
Your school, through the LEA if appropriate, will indemnify the Forestry Commission against all claims arising from any loss or damage, or injury or death to participants and any third parties arising from the negligence of its members or agents. During the period of your visit, your school must maintain an insurance policy with a reputable insurance company for an amount of not less than £5 million in respect of any one claim. The amount of such insurance shall not limit the liability of the school/ LEA to the Forestry Commission.
This clause does not reduce the liability of the Forestry Commission for its own actions or negligence.
Special needs - wheelchairs
Should any of your group require a wheelchair these can be booked from visitor services (0300 067 4861).
During your visit we ask that you be mindful of other visitors, and be respectful to the trees and arboretum environment.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you have enough adult helpers to comply with your LEA guidelines on supervision ratios. However we recommend
Nursery Class and reception classes 1 adult: 4 pupils
School years 1 – 6 1 adult: 5 pupils
School years 7 and above 1 adult: 10 pupils
To minimise the risk of on-site traffic please follow the guidelines provided within your confirmation pack as to where to park your coach. There are crossing points at either end of the car park and from the coach drop off point.
The Arboretum is a working environment and you may have some contact with this work during your visit. All hazardous work areas are taped off with hazard tape (orange and white, or red and white) and warning signage. It is your responsibility to ensure that your students obey this signage and do not enter taped off areas.
Exploratree is a play area for under 5s, situated behind the café. Any nursery or reception groups are welcome to visit Exploratree but we ask that no more than 10 children use it at a time so that other young visitors can also play there. There is a play trail in the Old Arboretum and Silk Wood, with additional play guidelines on the map.
Whilst we want you and your class to enjoy your time at the Arboretum we ask that any play you engage in be respectful to the trees, especially our younger and more delicate specimens.