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Westonbirt Arboretum >  Google™ Map Sep 2021  Gloucestershire Coat of Arms

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Sep 2021

"A magical tree garden, where you can explore trees from all over the globe", they say.

Gloucestershire Coat of Arms

It's a magical tree garden, where you can explore trees from all over the globe, alright, but that's to be expected what with this being an arboretum, and all.

Do you like trees? That means you're probably already familiar with the idea of an arboretum but stick with this, you might learn something, unlikely.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Have you never really thought too much about trees? Then welcome to the majority and stick with this, you might learn something, more likely but still unlikely.

Don't like trees? Well, that's just plain strange, you weirdo!

  Highgrove Gardens (Near Tetbury)

If you're not sure how to get here, head to Highgrove Gardens, the private residence of King Charles III, then pop next door.

King Charles III? Still doesn't sound right, does it?

This isn't any old arboretum, it's the National Arboretum, no less, but not to be confused with the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffs.

It's managed by Forestry England but don't you mean the Forestry Commission? Not since 2019, sunshine, when that was divided into separate government agencies with the former regulated by the latter.

Forestry England handles felling and general access while the Forestry Commission are more policy oriented and in the time it took for the series of meetings to arrive at this setup, a new one could have sprouted, probably.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Either way, it all looks not a little unlike this.

Today's temperate is predicted to hit the high 20s so it's either here or the local ice rink but Westonbirt shades it, despite a low, double-digit entrance fee. That charge jumps in October when these acers will be a riot of autumnal colours, they say. Acers are simply members of the maple family so yes, there is a guidebook available since you ask.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Two sides to this here arboretum here and all of this is up and to the right from the main entrance in what's called the Old Arboretum. To avoid you getting too lost, they've even extended to street names, Mitchell Drive, Specimen Avenue, for example.

Now it's known what these things are, though, don't you think Acer Alley is much better, don't you think?

A fan of all things flora, Robert Stayner Holford was looking to extend the family pad's back garden. That was at what is now Westonbirt School but even he couldn't get permission to demolish the local church so he looked at his hundreds of spare acres over the road and the Old Arboretum was born.

One of the wealthiest landowners in the land with plenty of spare time and money, he funded the expeditions to collect samples worldwide some of them rather exotic.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Today's layout was largely in place by the 1850s but it wouldn't be for another 100 years until it landed in the Forestry's lap, Holfords descendents not nearly so inclined to be green fingered.

That's not strictly or even actually true, Holford's son George created Silk Wood or the New Arboretum if you'd rather and you can get to that via the caff. The routes here aren't nearly so random with access all areas via the broad Broad Drive and it's in and around here that you'll be glad of the shade, the mercury now north of 30°, surely?

Westonbirt Arboretum - Near Broad Drive

A solemn sight, however, somewhere off Oak Avenue with a funereal procession of a trailerful of logs. The trailing pallbearer is no doubt down to no room in the slow-moving and single-seated buggy but the reason for this unusual illusion? Ash dieback, since you ask, and it's the Dutch elm disease du jour if you didn't already know.

The Woodland Trust has revised their estimate of the death of ash trees in the UK to just the 80% and there's no treatment or cure. It will take decades for resistance to develop, they say, and in the meantime, there's no other option than to chop down the lot.

If caught early enough, sales of coffee tables will continue but badly infected timber is fit only for the fire and it looks like that's to where this lot is off. The cause? A fungus from Asia and from where the infection isn't life-threatening, natural evolution having seen to that, naturally.

Serious stuff so far but this is a fun-for-all-the-family destination with most making use of their annual membership. Children's boredom thresholds, however, are now likely to have been reached with the Gruffalo™ and a lone wolf long since left behind in the Old Arboretum.

Westonbirt Arboretum - The Gruffalo
Westonbirt Arboretum

There's a further treat for them to take in their stride as there is for bumbling newcomers who have somehow snuck across into Silk Wood via the back of the caff.

Westonbirt Arboretum - Treetop Walkway

A Treetop Walkway, no less, the longest of its kind in the UK and at 40-foot up it's just about borderline for these wobblies and yes, that'll be the old vertigo.

Its construction was funded in part, no doubt, from the ticket sales of outdoor events in summer one of which saw North London Nutty Boys Madness supported by loony, Scouse ravers The Farm, remember them?

Westonbirt Arboretum

The foliage-assisted acoustics made for rousing renditions of Driving in My arauCaria, Our greenHouse and It Must Be Lovage. The encore didn't go down quite so well, though...

House of Fungal infections from the Far East leading to Ash dieback isn't actually that funny, actually.

I don't know, they come over here nicking our logs.