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NEWS RELEASE No: 135921 JUNE 2010

Discover natural fun at Westonbirt

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children at play in woods

Westonbirt, the National Arboretum is inviting families to explore off-track this summer with free admission for children from 23 July to 30 August and play maps to find the dens, tree forts and giant tree roots hidden amongst the woodlands.

Seven different play zones are hidden amongst the trees of the Old Arboretum on the Naturally Playful trail; built with recycled Westonbirt wood felled as part of the arboretum’s tree management programme.

Children can build their own explorer's den, protect their woodland kingdom from inside tree forts, clamber over tree stump stepping stones or simply climb in or hide amongst the trees. 

Located in Gloucestershire, Westonbirt Arboretum is managed by the Forestry Commission, which has a national policy to get more children involved in outdoor and natural play.

Growing evidence that children’s physical and emotional well-being can benefit from enhanced contact with woodlands and natural settings has been used to develop a nature play policy used across the country.

Simon Toomer, Arboretum Director commented:

“When people visit somewhere as impressive and historically important as Westonbirt Arboretum, they instinctively think they should keep to the paths. Many find it a surprise to discover the exciting play areas hidden around the site.

“We want to encourage visitors to get off the paths and explore amongst our trees. Using the Forestry Commission’s nature play advice we have developed exciting, challenging areas buried within the tree collection for children to play and learn in.

“Families can discover new ways to have fun with our trees and use our children’s trails to find out which birds and mini-beasts live amongst our trees.”

Westonbirt Arboretum also has a special tree-inspired playground for the under fives. The Exploratree experience, located next to the Courtyard Café, is designed to help develop their play skills and understanding of trees. They can clamber under tree roots, encounter over-sized worms and climb into a giant birds nest.

Find out more and download your family play map at or pick one up on site from the Great Oak Hall information point between 10am - 4pm.

Free admission for children promotion is from 23 July to 31 August and includes the Festival of the Tree.

Westonbirt Arboretum is three miles south west of Tetbury on the A433 (Tetbury to Bath Road).  It is 10 miles north east of Junction 18 of the M4, and south-east of junction 13 of the M5.

1. Image attached shows children in the tree forts on the Naturally Playful trail at Westonbirt. Credit to Rob Cousins.

2. 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.

3. 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

4. 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, supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund.

5. 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.  

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