FEELING just a little too grounded? A visit to Westonbirt Arboretum’s latest attraction should have you feeling on top of the world courtesy of the STIHL Treetop Walkway.
The new feature was unveiled in April, and my mid-week visit, scarcely three weeks after the official opening, showed that it’s already a popular feature, with a steady flow of visitors along the 300m walkway.
The first thing you notice is that there are no steps: the attraction is designed to be accessible to all so that those using mobility scooters, wheelchairs and pushchairs are able to access the treetops, along with dog walkers (dogs have to be on leads on the walkway) and families with young children.
Access is from just beside the Welcome Building, taking the visitor into the Silk Wood on an incline so gentle you won’t notice you’re 13m off the ground until you come to a clear patch. Never fear – the walkway is securely panelled and once you get into the wooded areas the fact that you’re at eye level with squirrels and birds should drive away any scary thoughts.
Along the way there are activities seemingly every few yards, along with bench stops packed with games and information, a very small rope bridge leading to a circular vantage point, a crow’s nest and finally a line up of fact-packed panels: I guarantee you’ll learn a lot about wood as you enjoy your leisurely stroll, and also enjoy the poems etched onto stairs and columns en route.
The most enjoyable – and possibly slowest – 300m you’ll ever walk brings you out into Silk Wood, from where you can head back along the structure, walk further afield into the wood (there are paved trails as well as woodchip paths) or retrace your steps at ground level through the woods. We did the latter, and enjoyed viewing the new attraction from a level that provides another perspective on the project.
Westonbirt offers plenty of other attractions to make an outing worthwhile, and the Walkway looks as if it’s destined to become a firm favourite with all ages, providing a new perspective on this beautiful Arboretum.
Avoid the weekends if possible, when it will be buzzing, and enjoy a tree-top stroll that’s guaranteed to leave you with a natural high.
Address: Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Tetbury, Glos GL8 8QS
Spring/summer opening hours: 9am to 4.30pm
Admission: adult £9, student £6, child (5-18) £3, under-5s free