A Treetop Walk Through Westonbirt Arboretum
Visits to Westonbirt Arboretum are one of our guaranteed good family days out, and that is the main reason why we bought our membership. Any time of the year, there is always something to enjoy, and usually something different to experience. A few weeks ago, the new Treetop Walkway opened, so we were really keen to visit and see what it was like.
The Treetop Walkway is part of The Westonbirt Project – a programme of work to enhance the arboretum environment and add to the experience and understanding of it for visitors. It takes visitors into The Silk Wood – not the part of the arboretum we usually visit as dogs are allowed into this part, and the girls get very anxious about them. However, we wanted to experience the walkway (on which dogs must be kept on the lead) even if this meant walking from one side and straight back across again.
The walkway is 300m long and about 2m wide, with a really gentle incline to 13m at the highest point. There are no steps on the main walkway, which means it is accessible to wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs. It provides some amazing views not only of the surrounding grounds, but also close up to the tops of the trees, giving you a really unique experience of the arboretum.
I’m not a great fan of heights, but I did feel fine on the walkway. It somehow manages to feel very safe, but still manage to provide great views and let you feel very close to the trees. At one point there is a grating which you can look down at the ground below. Freyja was intrigued, but I have to admit I preferred not to look!
I was just about happy peering down over the side of the railing, and truly appreciating how high up we were.
The Treetop Walkway isn’t just a walkway through the treetops, there’s actually a few other features along the wooden pathway. There are two viewing platforms. One of these, at the same height as the walkway, is reached by crossing a wobbly rope bridge, the other is a much higher “Crow’s nest” which is accessed via stairs. This viewing platform is designed to be bouncy, and I am afraid it was a bit too much for me! I think it will be worth another try if it were a bit quieter!
There are also a few interactive displays along the walkway, where you can find out about different types of trees and how they grow and survive. My inner-Biology teacher did a little squeal for joy at the sight of some model xylem vessels! As part of the display, the girls tried to lift a weight to represent the force generated by trees to draw water up from the roots. Thankfully Daddy helped!
Walking along the treetop walk really did give you a bird’s eye view of the arboretum, and the gradual slope made for a gentle and easy walk with the girls. You felt like you could actually enjoy the views, rather than having to worry to much about where you were placing your feet.
What’s great about the walkway is that there is no extra cost to use it and it actually provides a much easier walk into The Silk Wood than the alternative paths which have quite steep slopes. I have always loved watching the seasons change at Westonbirt, and now I will enjoy experiencing this change from a different perspective in our future visits.
The Treetop Walkway is actually part of Phase 2 of The Westonbirt Project. Phase 1 involved creating a new car park and visitor centre. As a result, the old car park and some of the paths have been converted back into downlands. As we left the walkway and headed towards the cafe and play area, Emily had fun running through the grass and watching insects on the wildflowers. But this area, a couple of years ago had been a car park. It made me marvel that we humans as a species might be able to achieve some impressive feats, but really this pales into insignificance when it comes to the resilience of nature when we humans don’t interfere with it.