I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son.
I love my city, and love to live here. I write about Bath a lot, and sometimes about travels in Ireland and France.
Published July 28th 2020
Westonbirt Arboretum- Trees (you can meetum)
Westonbirt Arboretum cares for over 18,000 trees, spread over an area that is over 2.4 kilometres squared. Located in the Cotswolds, just under an hour's drive from Bath, this place offers serenity, space and a generous helping of the outdoors to all of its visitors. There is almost every type and shape of tree imaginable at Westonbirt, and the colours are ever-changing. Visit in Summertime, and you will be blessed by every shade of green imaginable.
So many shades of colour
The Arboretum is in constant development and flux, and carefully laid pathways and walkways run throughout the trees. There are saplings, shrubs, young trees and established giants aplenty in all of the areas, and many of the older residents have information tags attached to aid identification. My favourite pairing today was an immense Douglas Fir tree, right next to a small grove of Silver Birch trees. At Westonbirt, geography collides and mixes, and you can find yourself enjoying a miniature Japanese Acer tree at one moment, and a mighty English Oak the next.
Acer saplings, with towering trees behind
Your sense of size and scale is constantly adjusting at Westonbirt. Walking around almost becomes an exercise in mindfulness, where you lose yourself in watching the colours and shapes of the trees. There is also a wonderful array of animal and insect life to appreciate, from tiny green beetles to cheeky grey squirrels that leap between branches.
A tree lined avenue, showing the massive scale of Westonbirt
The Arboretum is arranged in loops or clusters, and reaching the boundaries between them is remarkable. Visitors can quickly find themselves moving between a very organic woodland dell to starkly planted trees standing like sentinels. You never really know what is around the corner.
Enjoy a sit and a brew at the cafe
After strolling around natures finest creations, you may well want to sit down. There is a cafe and a restaurant on offer here, and both provide good quality and affordable snacks, meals and hot and cold beverages. We sampled the delights of the restaurant, which overlooks a broad meadow and is surrounded by green open spaces to enjoy picnics, a wooden aerial walkway and toileting facilities.
Some thoughts about trees, on boards at the head height of little ones
There are many 'blackboard' style information boards along the pathways, and they all give a little insight into the trees. They are all, I think, aimed at capturing the attention of young folks, as they are placed literally at child level. There is something wonderful about appealing directly to the next generation of custodians for these trees.
Smaller bushes, but no less beautiful than the trees
Summertime at Westonbirt sees an explosion of smaller blooms and bushes taking root, and establishing themselves in the park. I found some of the Pine and Oak trees to be almost overwhelming and sought refuge in the more delicate and unassuming creations. There are some beautifully shaped leaves and foliage to be seen here. Everything from sharp, geometric ferns to soft, heart-shaped and open leaves.
A bronze cast sculpture of ribbons, wrapped around a bough
Another highlight of this special place is the great variety of sculptures and artworks throughout. We spotted a wooden, chainsaw-carved wolf, an intricately decorated Gruffalo, a fox and several dogs, all created in felled branches and tree trunks from the park. Most remarkable for me was a bronze cast of a ribbon-decorated branch, taken from a 'wishing tree'. It is a tradition in the South West to decorate branches with written messages asking for wishes and dreams to be fulfilled. It was wonderful to see that visitors had stowed still more thoughts and wishes into this hollow sculpture.
A brand new sapling- 'from little acorns, mighty oaks grow'.
Westonbirt has so much to offer. Summer, Autumn, Spring or Winter there will be something to notice and enjoy. The place constantly changes, and I love this fact. As we left, I was drawn to this tender little Oak sapling. I look forward to returning soon, to see how it is getting on.