Westonbirt Aboretum

by - 17:00

Today I'd like to share a place I love, Westonbirt Aboretum in Gloucestershire.

Westonbirt is famed for its autumn colour and collection of over 15,000 trees from every corner of the world. The collection was originally started by the wealthy owner of the Westonbirt Estate, Robert Holford in the 1850's, today it is managed by the Forestry Commission as well as a large team of passionate volunteers. It is a wonderful place to visit, has fantastic facilities and is very family friendly too, often hosting events and activities aimed specifically at children. When we visited during half term we took part in a brilliant arts trail, it was so lovely to see so many children rosey cheeked with the fresh air and eyes sparkling with excitement as they took part in the activities. My children loved it, especially hunting for natural treasures along the way and then having a special place to leave something they'd discovered for other children to enjoy, such a wonderful idea.

To me Westonbirt is magical. I feel the history of the place is so tangible, I can reach out and touch a tree that has been there for over a hundred years. Being in such a place allows my mind to drift and ponder on how the world has changed at such a fast pace in that time, faster I imagine than at any other moment in human history and part of me wonders if this is a good thing, or not... So much life has gone on around that tree whilst it has been quietly growing away. 
I also find myself transported back to the people who may have planted it, wondering who nurtured that tiny seedling and whether they ever thought about how long that little tree would live, and who may sit under it in the future, just as I wonder who might have sat under it in the past. 
I feel a great sense of connection with those men {most likely men in Victorian times} almost as if they are with me there in spirit, the place has great soul as well as great beauty. 

As a gardener when I visit Westonbirt and indeed other historic gardens, I reflect on how it is strangely comforting that the simple act of planting a seed in soil, nurturing it and letting it grow is something that connects me to the past in a way that nothing else can, this is a process fundamentally unchanged throughout history, something that is so necessary to life that nothing can replace it. I love that despite human intervention, industrialisation or commercialisation of almost every natural process on earth particularly over the lifetime of some of those trees at Westonbirt, I can still hold onto that spiritual connection with the gardeners and horticulturalists that were here before me and share that same communion with mother nature as they did and the generations before them.

 If you would like to visit Westonbirt they will be holding a wonderful event throughout December called Enchanted Christmas it promises to be truly magical, a one mile long trail of trees are illuminated, showing off their majestic and magnificent silhouettes against the night sky. I couldn't think of a better way to spend a winters evening, and there is nothing more comforting than coming in from the cold night air and returning home to a cosy hot chocolate and perhaps a homemade mince pie or two...

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