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Westonbirt Arboretum

The National Arboretum

nr Tetbury, Gloucestershire

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Westonbirt in Gloucestershire, became The National Arboreta in 2001 along with Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent. It has an historic collection of over 3000 different trees and shrub species and over 15,500 individual specimens, many of which are rare or endangered in their native lands, covering 600 acres. It is possibly the most well known arboretum in the UK.

What to see

There are two main areas to Westonbirt, Silk Wood and The Old Arboretum, but there is also The Downs, between the car park and Silk Wood which is a limestone grassland. It is grazed most of the year by cows and in spring is where you will find a display of green-winged and bee orchids.

Silk Wood is 70 hectares of semi-natural woodland. As well as the trees there is also to be found flowers, butterflies and fungi. The fungi is regularly monitored and the last count revealed over 1100 species - some of which are very rare.                                                 See Larger Image

Autumn Highlights include: the maples in Old Acer Glade which date back to 1875 and are believed to be among the earliest imported from Japan. Persian Ironwood, maples and spindles create an amphitheatre. Also look out on Main Drive for the rich buttery-yellow leaves of the big-bud hickory, and out on the downs the magnificent bronze beeches. A kaleidoscope of leaves, are intermingled with fruits and seeds of all colours - from yellow, red and orange to black, pure white and even blue. The spindle trees on Circular Drive - with their orange seeds dangling from waxy pink capsules - are especially eye-catching.

Winter Highlights include: the witch hazels in Savill Glade whose spidery yellow flowers reliably bloom in mid-winter regardless of the weather. The yellow flowering tree, the cornelian cherry,  can be seen at Skilling Gate. If you want colour and scent then seek out the Christmas box around Circular and Main Drives, whose spiky white flowers give off a delightful scent. In January and February the hazel trees in Silkwood are festooned with their dangling lemon catkins, look closely and you should see the purple spikes of the female flowers.

Spring Highlights include: the opening of blossom with colours from magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons (usually at their best during March, although start to flower at end of February) in the Old Arboretum. In April Rhododendron williamsianum is in full bloom with it's heart shaped leaves and bell shaped pink flowers can be seen on the edge of Main Drive near Dukes Cut Gate. There is also a spectacular spread of wildflowers carpeting the woodland floor including celandines, wood anemones, with primroses, bluebells, wood violets and more carpet Silk Wood.

Summer Highlights include: the Hawthorn in May and June, or the incredible white handkerchief tree on Main Drive. During the main summer months of July and August the North American tulip tree in Jackson Avenue will be out in flower.

A little bit of history

The arboretum was established in 1829 by Robert Stayner Holford who inherited the estate 10 years later. He took on transforming the estate and not only rebuilt Westonbirt House with formal pleasure gardens, now a girls' boarding school, and on the other side of the road, but also the arboretum. Many plant-hunters of the time were bringing in new and exotic species from around the British Empire and Robert was able to get some of them for his collection. By 1855 much of the Old Arboretum had been laid out including Main Drive and Specimen Avenue.

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It was later extended by his son Sir George Holford from the 1880's. He extended the arboretum across the valley into Silk Wood, clearing natural woodland and creating more drives with wide verges and bays of ornamental trees. He was also responsible for the planting of the many rhododendrons and maples and glades such as Acer Glade, Savill Glade and Victory Glade and sometime around 1905, 28 Tulip trees were planted in Jackson Avenue. From 1910-1912 George contributed to a Chinese expedition and was provided with seed from it. He also made donations to Kew including over 200 orchids which he had raised at Westonbirt.

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After the death of George in 1926 ownership passed to his nephew the fourth Earl of Morley and in 1927 the estate was split up, with the mansion being sold to Rev. P Warrington for it to become a girls school. When the fourth Earl died in 1951 it passed to his brother, but lack of maintenance and WWII left the arboretum in a poor state and in 1956 it was handed over to the Forestry Commission. They spent the next seven years cataloguing the specimens and mapping the site as well as bringing it back into a state which could be used by the public. This was achieved in 1961 when the first members of the public were admitted. Various new glades were added and developed over the next 20+ years and in 1982 they developed the Japanese Maple Cultivar Collection in Silk Wood.

Today it is now a resource for conservation, recreation and education and available for the public to use and admire, with over 350,000 of us visiting annually.

Discovering the trees

Nearly all specimens have a black label which gives it's name and place of origin. Within the Great Oak Hall (open 10am-4pm every day except Christmas Day) there is a WOW board which shows the plants which are at their best at your time of visit - this is updated every two weeks. But they also have a free guided walk every weekend  at 2pm from Easter to end of October. This lasts for about 2 hours and gives an introduction to what is available to see. They also have a number of themed walks looking a particular topics throughout the year. A free map is available on arrival at the arboretum from the Great Oak Hall

Other Activities

Various events take place throughout the year such as the Festival of The Tree which takes place in August. The Westonbirt Arboretum - Enchanted Christmas  runs weekends, Fri-Sun from November-December when it is open from 5pm, and the forest is lit up and you can take a walk through the forest and see Father Christmas plus lots of other festive activities such as carols from local choirs and bands, roast chestnuts and mulled wine. Around 30,000 people attend this each year.

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The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Is a registered charity set up in 1985 to help support the Forestry Commissions work. It has a membership of over 21,000, growing annually, and provides support in the form of finance and volunteers. Around 250 volunteers help out in a variety of roles including maintenance of the tree collection, propagation assistances and as guides. If you want to find out more about them then they have their own website

Further information Grid



Westonbirt Arboretum, nr Tetbury, Gloucestershire

Ceremonial County: Gloucestershire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo:

Google Aerial Photo



Best Times to Visit:

Different times of the year will give different displays but the autumn has some spectacular colours.





Other useful websites:

Friends of Westonbirt


Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages: National Arboretum Enchanted Christmas


Planning Grid


Westonbirt Arboretum, nr Tetbury, Gloucestershire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

On the A433 3 miles south of Tetbury.


Via a long drive off the A433 to the car park and then on foot from here.


Landscaped main car park past admissions point, but also uses grass areas when busy. Disabled car park next to Maples Restaurant. Car parking is free except during December when admission charge is per car rather than per person.


Restaurant, cafe, shop, picnic area, toilets next to Great Oak Hall in the Old arboretum, and at the Plant Centre and Maples Restaurant.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Trees and shrubs, fungi, wildlife

What to take:

wide angle lens, tripod, macro lens

Nature highlights:

Autumn, spectacular colours of deep reds from Japanese Maples to yellows, russets etc as well as the colourful fruits and berries on some of the trees, and fungi underfoot. Maybe birds.


Westonbirt 'The National Arboretum'

Nr Tetbury





01666 880220

Opening times:

April-August 9am-8pm;  September-March  9am-5pm


Normal Admission

Mar-Sept: Adults 8; Concessions 7; Child (5-18) 3

Oct-Nov: Adults 9; Concessions 8; Child (5-18) 4

Dec-Feb: Adult 5; Concessions 4, Child (5-18) 2

Annual Event Admission

Treefest: Adults 12; Concessions 10; Child (5-18) FREE

Enchanted Christmas: Adult 9; Concessions 8; Child (5-18) 5


Under 5's FREE at all times.

Concessions include senior citizens, students and disabled adults.

Friends of Westonbirt get FREE normal admission and FREE entry to Treefest, with half price at Enchanted Christmas.

There are other special rates for groups see website for details.

Photo Restrictions:

Encouraged for personal or educational use and no charge for non-commercial photography or filming. Permits are required for location photography or filming.

Other Restrictions: Cycling is NOT allowed in the arboretum.
Special Needs Access: 17 miles of hard paths throughout arboretum, other trails off these paths are accessible depending on weather conditions.
Special Needs Facilities: 2 disabled toilets. Special parking bays near the facilities. Electric scooters, 2 seater buggies and manual wheelchairs available.
Children Facilities: Baby changing facilities in the toilets next to the Great Oak Hall in the old arboretum.
Dogs Allowed:

Dogs can run freely in Silk Wood except when livestock in the area, but use the litter bins for any mess they make.

Dog FREE Zones include the Old Arboretum, Maples Restaurant, the Great Oak Hall, the forest shop and toilets.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and section/topic references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Tracey Park Section: Arboretum Key:
Page Ref: Westonbirt Topic: Nature Last Updated: 03/2012

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