Westonbirt, the National Arboretum, is managed by the Forestry Commission and renowned worldwide for its tree and shrub collection. Covering 600 acres of landscaped grounds, it contains nearly 18,000 specimen trees and shrubs, including almost half of the woody plants known to grow in the world's temperate climate zone. Its importance is recognised by English Heritage's Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historical Interest as a Grade 1 registered Landscape. It was opened to the public in 1961.
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Westonbirt is laid out according to aesthetic appeal rather than scientific or geographical criteria. There are 17 miles of paths to explore. The arboretum was established in the 1850s by wealthy landowner Robert Holford and later developed by his son George Holford. Much of Westonbirt's renowned autumn colour is credited to Sir George's plantings of Japanese maples between 1875 and 1900, many of which are still alive today.
There are three sections to the Arboretum. The first is called the Old Arboretum and was designed to offer avenues of trees and vistas. The second area is called Silk Wood. Itís an ancient, semi-natural woodland with collections of oak, native trees, cherry trees, ash, and national collections of Salix (willow) and Japanese Maple (Acer) with over 300 different types of acer. The third area is Grade I registered Downs. This area consists of species-rich grassland.
Rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias, and wild flowers bloom in the spring. At Christmas time there are lighted displays among the trees.
Westonbirt National Arboretum
Three miles south-west of Tetbury, Gloucestershire
On the A433
Tel. 0 1666 880 220
Open: year round, daily, 9am-5pm; closed Dec 25
Visitor centre; shop; plant centre; cafť; restaurant; picnic areas in Downs section; parking; exhibitions; workshops; special events; dogs not allowed in Old Arboretum area
Photos © by Barbara Ballard