The Duchess of Cornwall has visited Westonbirt Arboretum, declaring that, “There’s nothing better than working outside.”
Camilla, who is Patron of the Friends of the Westonbirt Arboretum, spent time at the facilities on October 26th to learn more about the conservation work, the education and the community participation work being done at each site.
“After what has been a challenging year for staff, members and visitors, it was wonderful to be able to welcome The Duchess back to the arboretum this year,” said Andrew Smith, the arboretum’s director, to reporters afterwards.
“This year has really highlighted the importance of spending time in nature to both our physical and mental well-being. This was a wonderful opportunity to share with the Duchess some of our plans for how we will continue to connect people with trees to improve the quality of life for many years to come.”
The arboretum is located in Gloucestershire, close to Camilla’s Highgrove home. Clarence House notes that the Westonbirt Arboretum receives over 550,000 visitors every year, with a membership of over 33,000. It spans 243 hectares, contains nearly 15,000 labelled specimens and over 2,500 tree species. Of the trees growing in the arboretum, 113 of them are threatened with extinction in the wild.
Camilla has a long history with the Westonbirt Arboretum, having opened its welcome centre in 2006. She also planted, along with Prince Charles, the 100th maple tree at the facility’s Rotary Glade to mark its centenary that year as well.
After meeting with Mike Coe, the CEO of the Friends of the Westonbirt Arboretum, and three of the facility’s longest-serving volunteers, Camilla visited various parts of the arboretum to learn more about each area.
Camilla walked along the STIHL Treetop Walkway, a 300-metre walk that shows off the 15,000 trees within the arboretum. She helped launch the second phase of the walkway’s charity appeal in 2014. She then stopped to view the tree in the Acer Glade that she planted in 2006 and took a tour around the Maple Loop, a walk that contains the national collection of maple trees.
Camilla also viewed the ash trees, some of which are infected with chalara ash dieback—a tree disease that thins the crown and causes an ash tree to die. The infected trees will be removed over the winter and replaced with new ones to bolster the ash tree population within the arboretum again.
Camilla also stopped by the Woodland Community Hub to view how the programmes there are supporting people with mental health difficulties or early stage dementia.
“We were honoured today to welcome our patron, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, to the arboretum,” said Mike Coe after her visit.
“We took the opportunity to show her around the arboretum at one of its most beautiful times of year, and demonstrate how the charity and its members support this magnificent site, from supporting the community and learning programmes to helping to finance the purchase of Silk Wood House in 2019, which allowed the arboretum to expand for the first time in 200 years.”