4:48pm Monday 23rd June 2014
By Brendan McFadden
HRH the Duchess of Cornwall captivated crowds at the opening of a new visitor’s information building at Westonbirt Arboretum this morning.
The Duchess, Patron of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, officially opened the arboretum's new £1.4 million Welcome building and planted a tree sapling to mark its completion.
The day also marked the launch of the second phase of Westonbirt’s plans which will see a new 300metre treetop walkway built to transport visitors up into the tree canopy to give them a different perspective on the tree collection.
The Duchess, who was dressed in an elegant camel-coloured jacket, white skirt and brown shoes, planted the tree and was then presented with a maple plant by Sophie Nash, a project manager at the Forestry Commission, which runs the arboretum.
HRH then told the adoring crowds how delighted she was to open the new building.
She said: “I would just like to congratulate everybody who has been involved in it. I think you have done a very good job and you should be very proud of yourselves. I should very much look forward to stage two and coming back to see the new walkway.”
Following the Duchess’s speech, giant streamers were fired into the air, much to the delight of guests.
The Duchess then spoke to officials and staff who will be manning the new building.
Simon Toomer, director of Westonbirt Arboretum, said: “It was great to have the Duchess here. She was very interested in the gardens and trees. She also wished us good luck with further planting. It was really important to celebrate our success with her.
“The opening of the building is really monumental.
“The Arboretum is much more welcoming than before I hope it will be a revelation.”
Mark Ballard, curator of Westonbirt Arboretum, said the Duchess enjoyed talking to him about the tree collection at the ceremony.
“She was incredibly interested with how we manage the tree collection here and she said we were incredibly lucky to work here. She took a real interest in the job we do.”
To tie in with the start of the walkway project, a trapeze display was also put on as part of the launch by the Cirque Bijou performance company.
The new Welcome building provides a launch pad for visitors arriving at the arboretum
It includes improved visitor facilities as well as the Christopher Mitchell Information centre, where visitors can learn more about the arboretum’s history and how the world-class collection of trees are cared for by the Forestry Commission.
Housed in the information centre is a giant interactive mosaic map and a digital patchwork quilt made up of thousands of images of the 600 acre arboretum.
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