Festival of the Tree

Spot the real conkers

I love Westonbirt Arboretum: there's space to breathe and lots of tip top trees of course, including over 100 Champion ones (i.e. tallest, oldest, most massive). One of my favourite times to visit is at the end of August for The Festival of the Tree. NAH and I first discovered it by accident a few years back when we visited the sadly now defunct Festival of the Garden. After looking around the show gardens, we realised there was something else going on worth exploring and we've been back every year since.

This was the first year we've not been on the Bank Holiday Monday, so for once we were able to see the chainsaw sculptors (aka Sculptree) in action. Using large chunks of wood from Westonbirt trees felled because of disease or age, the finished sculptures are surprisingly complex and intricate. These are auctioned off on the Monday in aid of Tree Aid and each sculpture raised over £1,000 yesterday. Smaller, more affordable scupltures and objects are also on show and I love imagining where my favourite one will go in my garden.

There were lots of stalls displaying all aspects of wood - willow weaving (sadly without the woman whose hair matches her product this year), hurdle and gate making, art objects, indoor and outdoor furniture. There were lots of woodturners showing off their creations and work in progress, plus masterclasses available. You can even buy your own few acres of woodland - strictly for amenity purposes. I would love to buy the one for sale a few miles from us just outside Bath. The Friends of Westonbirt were also very much in evidence - they have timber sales on the second Sunday each month and were frequently visited by other exhibitors looking to source timber for their next piece of work. This time ash and yew seemed to be the main timber available - it varies depending on which trees Westonbirt has had to fell or maintain at the time.

We can never resist buying something - I love these clocks, but feel their novelty would wear off after a while. In previous years we've really splashed out, such as three very striking chairs from Malcolm David Smith a couple of years ago, and a very fine two foot long cedar bowl last year. This year the purchase was more modest, but equally beautiful - this rather nice pear made from spalted ash, a product of a tree's natural defences trying to combat invading fungi. It results in a pigmentation such as that seen below and is much prized by wood carvers and turners. The wood carver who sold me this piece told me that ash is a unique wood as far as spalting is concerned. It results in both grain and cross-grain effects and it is the only wood were advanced stages of decay result in a yellow pigmentation instead of the usual black.

I'll be returning to Westonbirt to show you the magnificent Arboretum another time.


  1. Shedman and I wish we had visited the "Festival of the Tree" with you. We love all things wood.
    You chose a very beautiful pear.

  2. I agree - I feel very envious. I love the bench(table?)too, it doesn't matter what it is, I still want it.

  3. AG - I think you and shedman would feel right at home there :)

    AS - it's a bench and I always imagine a favourite tree growing through the middle of it. Sadly our sloping garden means it's going to stay firmly in my imagination, but every year I see it, it calls to me.

  4. VP !! I loved seeing those crazy clocks and the beautiful works of art from a living resource .. wood is a favorite of mine .. medium and dark stain the ultimate perfection ! : )
    We bought beautiful wood furniture while in Holland .. it came from Belgium and Germany too .. my baby (although it is BIG) is my grandfather clock .. I'm the only one that winds it, by command to the rest of the troops .. and the moon dial is beautiful .. the etched brass wonderful on the pendulum and weights .. well you can tell .. I'm a bit of a clock freak .. but in wood ..
    Love that pear ! .. and that marvelous bench .. wow .. where the heck I would put it is another thing .. but I can dream .. right ? LOL
    Wonderful post .. makes me feel a bit Druid ? : )

  5. Hi Joy - I love wood too! Secretly I would still like 1 of those clocks and I'm envious of your grandfather clock. I have a very clear memory of staying at my great granparents house when I was little and listening to the reassuring tick and chime of their grandfather clock throughout their house at night. And as for dreaming - there's plenty more from the festival I'd love to have - just need the mansion and a few acres first!

  6. I've got a tree I could put that bench around - but where would I put the flower bed that is already there? Just as well I didn't know about this Festival. I'm always missing these things - I must start making a list for the future.

  7. Easygardener - what to do with the flower beds a minor detail. Think of the opportunity that bench represents! I have some self seeded lobelia under one of my benches on the patio. It happened by accident, it certainly isn't something I would have thought of, but it looks really good!

  8. You made a wise choice when buying the pear--it's beautiful! What a great idea to have a Festival of Trees! I love old trees, and I also love anything made of wood. It's nice to know they were using wood for their creations that had to be felled anyway.

  9. Rose - thanks, I like it too! And it's one of my favourite festivals to go to :)

  10. You've got such neat events going on around you. I'm so jealous! I love it all. Unlike you, I could live with a clock like those, but then I have a KitKat clock in my great room.

  11. MMD - I love the clocks really. I've seen them 2 years in a row now and they always bring a smile to my face.

  12. How I would love one of those giant conkers in my garden. I daresay they are very expensive? x


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