15 March 2016
For more than 50 years visitors to the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum have been enjoying Westonbirt’s magnificent trees with their feet firmly planted on the ground.
But that’s all about to change with the unveiling of the exhilarating and much-awaited new STIHL Treetop Walkway - which whisks visitors into and above the leafy canopy for a breathtaking birds-eye view of the world-renowned tree collection. It’s believed to be the longest treetop walkway in the UK at 300 metres long.
To be unveiled on 26 April by BBC Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison, the new 13 metre high walkway will transform the woodland experience by promising spectacular views across the arboretum landscape and enabling visitors to discover more about Westonbirt’s 15,000 trees from high above the ground. The walkway will be unveiled to the media at the exclusive preview event, ahead of its public opening on Wednesday 27 April.
The route follows a serpentine path through the trees and along the contours of the site, providing step free access into Silk Wood for people of all abilities, in addition to those using mobility scooters, wheelchairs and pushchairs.
The impressive structure is made from Larch and Douglas Fir and includes over 20 pairs of timber legs, ranging in size from 2.5 metres up to 13.5 metres tall.
The walkway experience will also feature seven interactive hotspots to give visitors of all ages the chance to get up-close with nature and learn more about the fascinating world of trees.
Kids will love to scramble up to the crow’s nest to take in the views as well as swing along the rope bridge and peer through the mesh floored section to look down at the arboretum below. This section is not for the faint-hearted - but don’t worry; you can easily avoid it by choosing to walk on the other side!
The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, a charity established to preserve and protect the arboretum, have raised £1.9 million to build the new walkway, which was designed by Glenn Howells Architects.
The second phase also includes the creation of the Wolfson Tree Management Centre which will greatly improve the way the Forestry Commission manages the internationally important tree collection and will explain to visitors how the trees are cared and used sustainably. This aspect of the project has been made possible thanks to a grant from The Wolfson Foundation and was designed by award winning architect of BBC2 series ‘The 100k House’ and founder of Invisible Studio, Piers Taylor.
Andrew Smith, Arboretum Director said:
“People have been enjoying the views of Westonbirt from the ground for generations, so the time has come to offer our visitors a new and exciting way to see the arboretum by getting up close and personal with the canopy, just like our tree team! This landmark addition – which we believe is the UK’s longest treetop walkway – transforms the visitor experience with incredible views which have never been seen before. It also provides a family friendly and fun way for visitors to engage with the world of trees!
“The STIHL Treetop Walkway is the start of an exciting new chapter in Westonbirt’s history and can be enjoyed as the seasons change throughout the year. We’re incredibly proud of it and would like to thank all the Trusts, Foundations, companies and individual donors who have given their time and money to make this project a reality.”
Anna-Clare Temple, Chief Executive of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, added:
“We are thrilled to have had such fantastic support with our fundraising efforts for Phase Two of the Westonbirt Project. Both elements of the second phase showcase the importance of engaging people with trees and nature in a fun and exciting way, whilst performing a practical role too!
“The Treetop Walkway will add a whole new dimension to our visitors’ experience of trees and be an all accessible route into Silk Wood, whilst the Tree Management Centre will not only give our tree team the facilities they need to look after the collection, but tell our visitors about their work too!
“We are really thankful to all who have supported the Westonbirt Project and we hope to build on the success of our fundraising efforts to continue to generate support for the arboretum for many years to come.”
The new STIHL Treetop Walkway will be open to the public from Wednesday 27 April. It’s a highly anticipated addition to the site and it is expected that weekends will be particularly busy. Access will be included within the admission to the arboretum.
For more information, please visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt.
For more information please contact:
Emily Beaumont-Pryor, Westonbirt Arboretum, on 0300 067 4851 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Pippa Hanson, Camargue, on 01242 577277 or e-mail email@example.com
Notes to Editors
The National Arboretum is situated at Westonbirt, three miles from Tetbury in Gloucestershire.
The National Arboretum is open from 9am Monday to Sunday all year round except Christmas Day.
Information on admission and events can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt.
- 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 nearly 15,000 labelled specimens. Visitor numbers are 350,000 a year, with a membership of over 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. Visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt.
- 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 www.forestry.gov.uk.
- 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 www.fowa.org.uk
- STIHL is the No.1 selling petrol chainsaw brand worldwide; renowned for its revolutionary outdoor power equipment. A family-owned business based in Germany; STIHL employs more than 14,000 staff worldwide and sells products in more than 160 countries globally. STIHL is a proud global technology leader and the only petrol chainsaw manufacturer of all three key chainsaw elements – the engine, bar and chain. In Great Britain, STIHL products are available from more than 650 specialist Approved Dealers who offer expert customer service. STIHL is committed to long-term environmental protection and energy efficiency and as such, STIHL products include advanced, eco-friendly and fuel efficient petrol models. The range also includes low-noise, lithium-ion battery powered tools, plus lightweight electric models. For more information please visit www.stihl.co.uk or www.vikingmowers.co.uk
- 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 www.westonbirtproject.co.uk.
- Wolfson Tree Management Centre is a new tree management facility at Westonbirt funded by the Wolfson Foundation, a charity that supports and promotes excellence in the fields of science and medicine, health and disability, education and the arts and humanities. The new facility will provide all that Westonbirt’s expert tree team needs to manage the tree collection, including secure undercover storage for machinery and tools, a yard area over four times the size of the current space, a new environmentally friendly vehicle wash down facility and a warm indoor space for the tree team to use. There will also be an area of interpretation where visitors can learn about the arboriculture and tools involved in caring for the arboretum.
- Key funders of Phase Two of the Westonbirt Project include: STIHL GB; The Wolfson Foundation; The Sackler Trust; Garfield Weston Foundation; and The Gloucestershire Environmental Trust.
- With thanks to: Buro Happold, PMP Consultants, Speller Metcalfe, Carpenter Oak and Woodland, Perchard & Co, Stevenson & Sons, The Way Design and Outside Studios for their significant involvement in Phase Two of the Westonbirt Project.