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Westonbirt Arboretum's better welcome is on its way!

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Artist's impression of Westonbirt Arboretum's new Welcome Building

The Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt is celebrating the start of work to construct a new Welcome Building which is due to open to the public in summer 2014.

The Welcome Building forms part of Phase One of the Westonbirt Project, which also includes relocating the car park and restoring the arboretum’s Grade I Registered downland.

The Project has been funded by The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, Forestry Commission, a £1.9m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £500,000 Biffa Award and gifts from a number of foundations, trusts and generous individuals.

The single storey building has been designed to fit sensitively into the arboretum’s landscape and will incorporate space for ticket sales, membership, mobility scooter loan and toilets.

Having parked in the arboretum’s new car park, visitors will enter the Welcome Building to pay for admission or show their membership cards on foot, rather than queuing in their cars.

The Welcome Building will also be home to The Christopher Mitchell Information Centre, an interpretation and information space which will help visitors to gain a better understanding of Westonbirt and its trees before they start their visit.

Simon Toomer, Director of Westonbirt Arboretum said:

“Westonbirt’s Victorian creator Robert Holford would have personally introduced his guests to the trees and landscape here – we’d like to do the same for our visitors using the Welcome Building.

This is a really exciting time for Westonbirt. The Welcome Building is so important for improving the welcome we give to our visitors, and in enabling everyone who visits us to feel more connected to the arboretum’s trees and their stories.”

Westonbirt staff are working with a number of contractors to ensure that the building complies with the highest possible environmental standards.

The building is to be timber framed using Douglas fir sustainably sourced from the UK and sustainable design features have been integrated into the fabric of the building.

Opening times and access to Westonbirt’s tree collection will be unaffected during the construction work.



Images attached:
i. Staff from the Forestry Commission and the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum charity pictured in front of the Welcome Building construction site. Credit Forestry Commission.
ii. An artist’s impression of the Welcome Building.

1. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is managed by the Forestry Commission and is renowned worldwide for its tree and shrub collection. Home to five national collections, the arboretum covers 243 hectares (600 acres) and contains 16,000 labelled specimens. Visitor numbers are 350,000 a year, with a membership of over 28,000. Westonbirt Arboretum was established in the 1850s by wealthy landowner Robert Holford and later developed by his son George Holford. Unlike many arboretums, Westonbirt is laid out according to aesthetic appeal rather than scientific or geographical criteria. Visit

2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment.  Further information can be found at

3. The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum was formed in 1985. The charity’s objects are to support the National Arboretum in promoting public understanding of the crucial role of trees to the environment and society. It is funded by membership receipts from over 28,000 members, other fundraising, and the use of the Great Oak Hall for events and activities. The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum is a registered charity (no. 293190). More information at  

4. The Westonbirt Project will make a big difference to everybody who comes to the arboretum. The project will mean a better welcome, a better visit and a better understanding of the heritage and importance of this world class tree collection. More information can be found at

5. Since 1997, the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT) has been awarding grants to environmental and community projects under the fund name Biffa Award. The fund administers money donated by Biffa Group Ltd, a leading integrated waste management business. Under the Landfill Tax Regulations 1996, landfill operators like Biffa Group Ltd are liable for taxes on waste deposited in landfill sites. The Landfill Communities Fund allows them to donate a small percentage of their tax liability to projects working to improve communities living within the vicinity of landfill sites. To date, Biffa Award has awarded grants totalling more than £140 million to thousands of worthwhile projects.


Forestry Commission media contact: Gina Mills, Communications Manager, Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, on 01666 881231 or