Welcoming building set for Westonbirt

Swindon Advertiser: An artist’s impression of the new Welcome Building at Westonbirt An artist’s impression of the new Welcome Building at Westonbirt

WESTONBIRT Arboretum in Gloucestershire will turn over a new leaf this summer with the completion of the first phase of its redevelopment project.

This June the new welcome building will open, creating a gateway to the garden landscape and collection of trees cared for by the Forestry Commission. The building will let visitors enter through a choice of gateways and follow the picturesque routes laid out by the Victorian creator Robert Holford.

The building is part of the £4.3m first phase of the Westonbirt Project which includes a new car park and extensive work to restore the historic landscape.

As well as having space for ticket sales, mobility scooter loans and toilets, the new building will also be home to the Christopher Mitchell Information Centre. This learning launch pad for visitors will help them understand the stories behind the trees.

The 11 exhibits include a giant interactive mosaic map user-tested in the last few weeks. The map is like a digital patchwork quilt made up of thousands of photos of the 600 acre (243 hectares) arboretum. Visitors will be able to navigate the tree collection through images.

Arboretum director Simon Toomer said: “As we approach the completion it’s astonishing to see the building in the landscape as you arrive at the arboretum.

“It will provide the ideal starting point for everyone, whether they are regulars or first time visitors.

“The team has worked tirelessly to compile all the information and imagery required for the new centre and I have no doubt the interactive displays will be interesting and fun for visitors of all ages.”

Staying true to the ethos of the arboretum and the Forestry Commission, the building has been built from UK-grown timber. Its curving shape is formed from a frame of Douglas fir with roof shingles and walls of western red cedar.

Work on phase one of the Westonbirt Project began in 2013. Restoration of the landscape is underway and will return the current visitor car park to species-rich meadow grassland.

The project has been funded by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, the Forestry Commission, a £1.9m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a £500,000 Biffa Award and gifts from foundations, trusts and individual people. The project team are starting to raise funds for the second phase of development to include a treetop walkway and tree management centre.

For further details visit www. westonbirt project.co.uk.

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