“A tree is the most intimate contact with nature”, said famous woodworker George Nakashima. If this is true, then Westonbirt Arboretum is surely the perfect location to recharge the soul and body this year.
Considered to be one of the UK’s most important botanical collections, Westonbirt’s grounds are home to over 2,500 different species of trees and shrubs. From their famous Japanese maple collection to the rare Chinese lime tree, this garden is guaranteed to inspire.
So, how did it all begin?
A Brief History of Westonbirt Arboretum
Located in Tetbury, Gloucester, Westonbirt Arboretum is a tree-lovers paradise. This arboretum nestled in the centre of the leafy Cotswolds was established in 1829 by Robert Holford. It’s thanks to him we can enjoy the park’s expansive tree and shrub collection.
Born in 1808, during the Victorian era, Holford was an art collector, wealthy landowner, and ambitious botanist.
He travelled the world looking for rare and beautiful species to bring back to his hometown, Westonbirt. Holford’s interest was at the height of British colonialism, meaning North Asian and North American plant species were more accessible than ever before.
Additionally, the Victorian age was rife with invention and curiosity; many people were excited to see such exotic botanicals on English soil.
Westonbirt Arboretum isn’t organised by geographical areas or species; instead, Holford was inspired by aesthetic beauty. So, walking through the grounds feels very much like looking through Holford’s own eye, experiencing his passion for botanicals.
As well as the arboretum, Holford is also responsible for rebuilding Westonbirt house, an impressive Georgian mansion next door to the park.
These days, the national arboretum is run by Forestry England, who opened up the entire collection for public viewing. For that, we are grateful!
5 Best Ways to Enjoy Westonbirt Arboretum
The gardens of the Westonbirt Arboretum are accessible through winding and well maintained pathways, perfect for young and old explorers alike. Although covering 600 acres in total, you may need a few weeks to discover every corner of the park.
Here are 5 ways to reconnect with nature at Westonbirt Arboretum.
#1 Collection of Rare Trees
First and foremost, the arboretum should be explored simply by walking through the grounds. As soon as you pass through the entrance, prepare to be impressed by the huge, sweeping trees bordering the pathways.
Some of the most beautiful varieties are:
- Incense cedars (Calocedrus decurrens)
- Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)
- Sapphire dragon tree (Paulownia kawakamii)
- Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)
Westonbirt’s tree and shrub collection incorporates native English species as well as international varieties from Asia, the US, and Europe.
At the heart of Westonbirt’s operation is preservation. In fact, the grounds contain over 100 critically endangered species, including the Madeira mountain ash. Visiting the park is an excellent opportunity for appreciating and supporting some of the rarest and most at risk trees in the world.
Another must see is the arboretum’s 2000 year old Lime tree located in Silk Wood; it’s the oldest tree in the entire park.
#2 Rooftop Walk
No trip to the arboretum is truly complete without a walk among the treetops. Located in the centre of the park is the STIHL Treetop Walkway.
You’ll experience an unrivalled view of the tree landscape, and it gives you the best perspective of just how giant these botanical beasts are. At its 13-metre height, you can enjoy some of the park’s largest species, or as they call them, “champion trees”. Some of these varieties have a trunk depth of over 1.5 metres!
The walkway also offers fun activities for families, including a rope bridge, crow’s nest lookout, and interactive boards.
Best of all, the main walk is stair free, making it accessible for everyone to enjoy.
#3 Family Activities in Nature
Westonbirt Arboretum does a great job of accommodating families. Don’t be afraid to bring your curious toddlers or children to the park, as they’ll find plenty of exciting activities.
Some of these include:
- Designated running routes
- Orienteering trails
- Hidden Gruffalo sculptures
- Woodland adventure play
The park also provides learning booklets, worksheets, crafts, explorer backpacks, and colouring sheets, so children can enjoy a full sensory experience. Beware, adults may find the activities just as enjoyable!
Special events and workshops are held in the park for children, including their “Tots & Twigs Forest School”. Westonbirt Arboretum is the ideal place to inspire kids, helping them learn to love and respect nature.
#4 Events and Workshops
In need of a new hobby? Westonbirt Arboretum offers a huge array of crafty workshops like chairmaking, photography, beekeeping, and natural printing. In essence, everything and anything.
The arboretum is also no stranger to loud, vivacious music events. Every year they host Forest Live, a festival hidden within a copse of trees. Huge names like Rag’n’Bone Man play at the laid back festival, which usually occurs from 9th -12th of June.
What better place to garner inspiration for a new floral painting or long distance run?
#5 Enjoy the Seasons
Westonbirt is a spectacular sight in every season. In the summer, visitors can enjoy lazy picnics on the lawn and escape the heat in the cool shadows of the trails. While in winter, events like Westonbirt Arboretum Christmas Trail are in full swing.
However, many argue that autumn is the best time of year for nature lovers. During the months of September and October, the park is transformed into a golden wonderland as the leaves begin to colour. And no tree is more spectacular than the Japanese Maple.
This is the perfect opportunity to take some incredible photographs, as well as simply walking around the park, appreciating nature’s beautiful autumnal transformation.
Things to See Around Westonbirt Arboretum
A short 5 minute drive (or about 25 minutes’ walk) from Westonbirt Arboretum is Westonbirt House. As mentioned above, this grand Georgian mansion was renovated by Robert Holford in the 19th century.
Country Life Magazine even described it as “the finest example of Victorian architecture, landscape and gardens in the Cotswolds”.
Both the house and gardens are open to the public throughout April to October each year. The restricted opening times are due to the building now being used as a school. Visitors can explore the site through either a self-guided or organised tour.
Final Thoughts on 5 Ways to Reconnect with Nature at Westonbirt Arboretum
Westonbirt Arboretum is a great place to lose a few hours or even days if you’re lucky. Our 5 ways to reconnect with nature is a useful guide whether you’re visiting alone, with little ones, or with friends.
More than anything, Westonbirt Arboretum is a powerful reminder to preserve our beautiful and diverse natural world. Supporting them through tree conservation is made easy by the glorious landscape and events they put on for the public.
With nature trails, workshops, and child friendly play areas, you’ll always find something to do in this botanical corner of England.
How to Get to Westonbirt Arboretum
How to Get to Westonbirt Arboretum by Car
The SatNav postcode you need to get to Westonbirt Arboretum is GL8 8QS. There is free parking at the site.
How to Get to Westonbirt Arboretum by Bus
The Stagecoach bus number 69 runs from Stroud to Tetbury and stops at Westonbirt Arboretum several times a day.
How to Get to Westonbirt Arboretum by Train
The nearest train station to Westonbirt Arboretum is Kemble which is a 15-20 minute drive away. From Kemble you can take the Stagecoach bus number 69 or a local taxi to the Arboretum.
Westonbirt Arboretum Opening Times and Ticket Prices
The Arboretum is open every day from 9am except Christmas Day.
There are different prices to enter the Arboretum depending on the time of year.
From March – September & November, the entry prices are:
- Adult: £11
- Students & job seekers: £7
- Child (5-18 years): £4
Under 5s go free
In October, the entry prices are:
- Adult: £15
- Students & job seekers: £10
- Child (5-18 years): £4
Under 5s go free
From December – February, the entry prices are:
- Adult: £8
- Students & job seekers: £5
- Child (5-18 years): £3
Under 5s go free
Facilities at Westonbirt Arboretum
Eating and Drinking at Westonbirt Arboretum
There are three delicious eateries to choose from:
The Kitchen serves delectable breakfasts, brunches and lunches along with teas, coffees and local drinks. There is also a children’s menu to choose from. The Kitchen restaurant is open from Monday – Sunday, 9.30am – 4.30pm.
The Pantry has more of a ‘grab and go’ feel to it serving a large selection of homemade cakes, sandwiches and ground coffee. The Pantry is open from Monday – Sunday, 9.30am – 4pm. Pick one of the picnic benches dotted around The Downs to sit and enjoy your refreshments.
The Smokehouse is where you can find amazing oven fired pizza using Westonbirt wood. There are also mouth-watering burgers, drinks and snacks available. The Smokehouse is open from Monday – Sunday, 11am – 4pm dependent on the weather.
Shopping at Westonbirt Arboretum
The Westonbirt shop has a wide range of gifts and souvenirs suitable for everyone. From homeware to honey, wildlife books to toys and biscuits, there is something to cover every need. The shop is open from 9.30am – 4pm, December – February and 9.30am – 5.00pm, March – November.