Westonbirt Arboretum, A Pioneering centre

On Saturday, I enjoyed a great day out at Westonbirt. I don’t get to go very often due to the distance from CAS towers. The weather was great, with that rare sight this autumn of clear blue skies ands warming sun. We perhaps expect places such as this to be a template of best practice, with perfect trees and everything in order. Given how our appreciation of best practice has changed in recent times, and the challenges of limited resources, there are some trees which would benefit from more work. I saw several specimens with crowded crowns in need of some restoring pruning. I am sure that Professor Ed Gilman would be in his element exploring the collection.

Westonbirt_Arboretum_1_(1)Admiring the fantastic colour (is it me, or are the Beech having a great autumn?), and keeping secateurs firmly in pocket, I then saw a young conifer, planted within the past 18 months, showing how to do it! Properly staked, with net surrounding and a good spread of mulch at the base, equipped for the immediate future. It just needed a spotlight and a plaque to promote. Surely this is but common sense? I just reflected on the countless field trees I have seen over the years, no doubt planted at some cost, surrounded by a substantial stock-proof fence and being overwhelmed by weeds taller than they.

I have usually visited the easterly part of the arboretum, which houses the main collection and is alive with colour at this time of year. This time, family hound in tow, and having spotted reference to some climate change trials on the west, the entourage was soon following me. This side seems to be more natural, still with pockets of colour.

The trials began last year, and so part of a Europe-wide programme exploring how different trees respond to current and expected conditions. They are rather hidden and took some determination to find. Well worth it and as I read the site information banner, my own passion for research and study was re-ignighted. After this, I may return to my student days.

Having completed the ‘circular’ walk, we visited the coffee shop. Seeing the prices. I was pleased I wasn’t paying!

There will be more on this work in the CAS magazine in the near future.