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NEWS RELEASE No: 1341926 MARCH 2010

Connect with trees for mind and body at Westonbirt

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Westonbirt – the National Arboretum, managed by the Forestry Commission, is encouraging people to connect with woodlands and natural surroundings to help reduce stress and increase wellbeing.

Research conducted and collected by the Forestry Commission has shown that exposure to natural spaces can have positive benefits to physical and mental health.

Activities at Westonbirt this spring and summer, such as T’ai Chi classes, a Woody Women course, wildflower trails and dawn chorus themed walks have been designed to connect visitors with our trees and woodlands.

Simon Toomer, Director of Westonbirt Arboretum commented:

“Evidence suggests people feel more relaxed when viewing trees and other plants, when compared to urban settings. Time spent outdoors and away from our typically urban environments and technology can have noticeable therapeutic value.

“As a natural space, Westonbirt is an ideal place for well-being of the mind and body. The trails across the Old Arboretum and Silk Wood can help keep you physically healthy and the layout of the Old Arboretum was designed for people to take pleasure in the beauty of the landscape.”

New to Westonbirt this summer, the ‘Woody Women’ course aims to empower women and broaden knowledge of woodland management, tree folklore and woodland crafts. The course focuses on skills such as effective wood splitting, the safe use and sharpening of tools and moving heavy timbers with levers and ropes.

Ruth Goodfellow, course manager and professional coppice worker commented:

“By addressing issues women face in society around using our bodies in physically demanding activities, we can really empower the women taking part in this event.”

The Woody Women course takes place from 5-6 June. To book a place email

Visit for details and times of the wildflower and dawn chorus walks, T’ai Chi classes and other events.

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 23,000. Westonbirt Arboretum was established in the 1850s by wealthy landowner Robert Holford, and later developed by his son George Holford.  Unlike many arboreta, Westonbirt is laid out according to aesthetic appeal rather than scientific or geographical criteria.

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. Further information can be found at

3. Westonbirt – the National Arboretum is part of the Westonbirt Heritage Partnership, which consists of the Forestry Commission, Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, Westonbirt School and the Holfords of Westonbirt Trust. The Partnership plans to reconnect the historic Westonbirt estate, conserve its unique heritage and inspire future visitors through the Westonbirt Project.

4. 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 23,000 members, other fundraising, and the use of the Great Oak Hall for events and activities.  

5. Sources:
Trees and woodlands: Nature’s health service, Social Research Group, Forest Research, O’Brian, Liz, 2005

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