STIHL Treetop Walkway

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Gloucestershire

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Westonbirt Arboretum holds one of the finest tree collections in the world, carefully laid out within a beautiful Grade I listed historic landscape. At 284 metres long the STIHL Treetop Walkway is the longest structure of its kind in the UK, providing stunning new views over the ancient semi-natural woodlands of Silk Wood and the Old Arboretum.

The walkway starts and finishes on ground level using the topography of the land, rising 13 meters above the ground as it follows the valley floor. The route takes the form of a sinuous ‘S’ shape, snaking through the tree canopy with crossing timber legs equally spaced at 10.5 metre intervals holding the walkway in the air. At four points along the route the walkway gently widens, providing spaces for pause, reflection, and interpretation of the surrounding woodland.

The steel balustrade is strong and light, ensuring that the minimum materials were needed to carry people up over the existing pathways, with timber legs chosen as they will age naturally over time. The concept behind the design makes reference to the complexity and elegance behind the fundamental structures of the genetic code of trees.

The world-renowned Westonbirt Arboretum was laid out by three generations of the Holford family from the early 1800s, and has been recognised by Historic England as a Grade I registered Park and Garden of Special Historic Interest.

The Westonbirt Heritage Partnership commissioned the walkway to provide visitors with a better understanding of the Arboretum and its landscape, containing the ancient woodlands of Silk Wood and the Downs and to improve visitor accessibility.

“People have been enjoying the views of Westonbirt from the ground for generations, so the time has come to offer our visitors a new and exciting way to see the arboretum by getting up close and personal with the canopy. This landmark addition transforms the visitor experience with incredible views which have never been seen before.”

— Andrew Smith, Arboretum Director

Grasshopper modelling of the walkway allowed a number of routes to be tested, evaluated, costed and refined with the client, whilst simultaneously developing and modelling detailed aspects of the design as repeating components.

Manufacturing of the walkway legs by Mast builder Ventis

Walkway plan

Main walkway plan

Typical bay section and axonometric

An exploded axonometric and a detailed section through a typical bay

Awards

RIBA Regional Award 2017
Civic Trust Regional Award 2017
RICS Regional Tourism & Leisure Award 2017
RICS Regional Infrastructure Award 2017
Wood Award 2016