Wildlife Conservation Group in the

Forest of Dean


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3 April 2014

Westonbirt Aboretum

Team Outing



This is the blossom from the Champion tree Magnolia sprengeri'Diva'


A day trip today the Dean Green Team (about 18 of us) went on a mini bus to Westonbirt Arboretum. We were taken around by the top man, Simon, and by one of their rangers, Andy. He was good at his job of informing us and enjoyed himself which was a bonus for us. There are 600 acres at Westonbirt with 28 full time staff and 260 volunteers!

The volunteers cover all aspects to help with the running of the Arboretum but only 10 of them so the sort of work that the Dean Green Team do. We met a group of them who were removing brambles which did not impress our team much! However, Westonbirt is so large that the organisation of the volunteers is a major task in comparison to our small group perhaps. Or, is it? We cover the whole of the Forest of Dean and, without the support of our team members which can number up to 25 every week, very lttle would be achieved.

The historic, Victorian picturesque landscape and internationally important tree and shrub collection is managed by the Forestry Commission and supported by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum. The 14,902 labelled trees (around 2,500 different types of tree) come from Britain, China, North America, Japan, Chile and other temperate climates. Planting started in the 1850s by Robert Holford; the rich Victorian landowner to whom the Westonbirt estate belonged. Our Arboretum, the Cyril Hart Arboretum at Speech House, contains about 450 trees and is only about 3 acres compared with the 600 acre Westonbirt Arboretum


Our group are observing a London Plane Tree which has an interesting branch which, long ago, grew into the branch to the side.

The London plane first appeared in Britain around the middle of the 17th century and was planted as an ornamental tree. It soon became the 'de rigueur' tree to plant in London once it was realised just how tolerant to city life it is. All trees 'breathe' through pores in their bark but not all shed it quite like the London plane. As time goes by, great plates of bark fall off revealing a camouflage pattern of browns, greys and yellows of the fresh wood beneath. This process ensures that pollutants are removed and the tree is kept healthy.

The team are seen in the distance walking along Holford Ride

In 1840, Robert Holford, in keeping with wealthy estate owners of his day, created the arboretum for pleasure and as testament to his taste and wealth. In the early 1850s Robert Holford embarked on a major landscaping scheme that included with associated clump and individual tree planting. This constitutes the beginnings of the arboretum. In 1939-45 Westonbirt Arboretum was requisitioned by the Air Ministry for use during WWII. It is said British fighter planes were kept from view amongst the trees of the Old Arboretum. In 1956 Westonbirt Arboretum is given over to the Forestry Commission.


We had previously been to Westonbirt in 2010 and it can be seen