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NEWS RELEASE No: 1474528 JUNE 2011

Funding to restore Westonbirt's historic boundaries

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Westonbirt Ha Ha and Railing

The historic ha-ha boundaries and railings of Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, managed by the Forestry Commission, will be brought back to life thanks to a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) grant from Natural England.

Whilst Westonbirt is known world-wide for its national collections and autumn colour, much less is known about the important role these boundaries play in the Victorian picturesque design of the landscape.

Thousands of metres of walls and railings sit discreetly across the Grade I Listed Downs and border the tree collections.

The railings, distinctive to Westonbirt in design, together with the Cotswold stone ha-ha walls are now almost unrecognisable in some areas. Over the years, many of these boundaries have disappeared altogether or have been replaced with modern fencing.

Their original use was to keep livestock out of the native and exotic tree collections, but they now also act as vehicle boundaries and help to guide visitors around the arboretum.

The Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement, in partnership with the arboretum’s farming tenants, will improve the environmental benefits of the estate. The restored boundaries will allow cattle to graze on some areas, whilst keeping them out of other locations so species including some of the unusual and rare wildflowers can flourish.

Sophie Nash from the Forestry Commission led the application for the funding and has carried out detailed research of Westonbirt’s boundaries. She commented:

“Westonbirt’s railings are an example of great craftsmanship and engineering and reflect the arboretum’s Victorian creator Robert Holford’s love for landscape design and innovation.

“Some of our railings are so distinctive in design and construction that they have baffled many craftsmen I’ve approached during the planning for this project.”

The work is part of the Westonbirt Project, led by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum. The project is a long-term plan to restore and reinstate elements of the important landscape and develop Westonbirt for the future. As part of the plans, a new car park will be built to remove cars from Grade I Listed Downs landscape.

The HLS grant will enable Westonbirt to start work on 700 metres of railings, encompassing five different styles of design. The work will be completed over the next few years.

Find out more about the Westonbirt Project at


  1. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is part of the Forestry Commission estate and is renowned worldwide for its tree and shrub collection. Home to the National Japanese Maple (Acer) Collection, the National Arboretum covers 243 hectares (600 acres) and contains 16,000 specimens. Visitor numbers are 350,000 a year, with a membership of 27,000. 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. Westonbirt’s website is

  2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. For more visit

  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 27,000 members, other fundraising, and the use of the Great Oak Hall for events and activities. More information at  

Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager, Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, on 01666 881 207 or email: