A THREE-YEAR project to replace an ash dieback-infected woodland at Westonbirt has moved a step closer to beginning after a fundraising target was surpassed. 

The National Arboretum in partnership with the charity Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum has announced it has raised nearly half of the £750,000 goal towards the ‘Silk Wood Community Planting Project’. 

Included in the funding is a £249,359 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, along with £50,000 funding from Garfield Weston Foundation, £50,000 from the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, £5,600 from MillerKnoll, £3,000 from D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust. 

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This project will help overcome the impact of tree felling in 2020 due to Chalara ash dieback, and includes the replanting of approximately 9,000 trees within the Silk Wood area of the arboretum. It will likely be made up of a mixture of native and non-native species, designed with the changing climate in mind. 

A key aspect of this work is that the local community will actively be involved over the next three years. Instead of working with local contractors on the replanting, Westonbirt has chosen to use this project as way to engage hundreds of local people. 

The project will target young people, people from disadvantaged backgrounds, those with neurodiverse conditions and people of a broad range of ethnicities to be part of this journey. They will be invited to participate alongside Westonbirt’s team in the design, selection of trees, ground clearing and preparation, tree planting and future care of this beautiful woodland.

Oscar Adams, project manager at Westonbirt, whose role has been funded by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, said: “Having secured this money, we can now recruit project staff and plan our start on the restoration of Silk Wood. 

Forestry Journal: Oscar Adams has been appointed to oversee the project Oscar Adams has been appointed to oversee the project (Image: Supplied)

"We are so excited to be making this a community project and are looking forward to working with volunteers, local community groups and schools to design, plant and restore this beautiful woodland for future generations.” 

Stuart McLeod, director of England - London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to support this important project thanks to National Lottery players. It will not only restore lost habitats but also engage new audiences in the outdoors and the work at Westonbirt." 

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This exciting project is still in its consultation and fundraising stage, as more funding is needed to complete this three-year scheme.  The  first phase of tree planting is due to begin this autumn and winter. 

For more background to this project, see Forestryengland.uk/westonbirt/chalara