Community engagement at Westonbirt Arboretum
Westonbirt Arboretum is part of the Forestry Commission estate and renowned worldwide for its tree and shrub collections. Sensory Trust first worked with Westonbirt in 2005 with a focus on helping to widen the range of visitors and volunteers.
We organised focus groups with local people who were under-represented in visitor data (Mother and Toddlers, disability groups and so on) and used tools like Sensory Mapping to involve people in assessing the visitor experience from personal perspectives. The results informed plans for improving visitor information, access and quality of experience.
Sensory Trust also worked with Westonbirt to help develop and improve the provision of information and interpretation, concentrating on the area of the Old Arboretum.
We consulted with groups of older people with mobility impairments, people with visual impairments, mothers with children under the age of five with learning difficulties, and the Friends of Westonbirt group.
We looked at what information was important and/or interesting to them, what format was of use to them, and how easy it was to navigate around the arboretum.
Selected activities were used with each group, for example the children were shown specific sensory aspects and collected natural items from around the site to see what increased their enjoyment of their visit (Walk ‘n’ Talk; Nature Palettes and so on). They were then given the opportunity to draw what the most special part of their visit was (Picture Portraits). The Friends group carried out a Sensory Mapping activity which highlighted areas of the site that attracted most visitors, and the reasons why, and also identified areas lacking in sensory richness that could be enhanced to appeal to more visitors and help spread visitors around the site.
In 2012 we pleased to be back at Westonbirt as part of our Forest Tookit project, advising forest rangers on how to use the toolkit to review Westonbirt and other forest sites.
Outdoor access design factsheets - free guidance
Access Chain - a tool for reviewing access from the user's perspective
Access statements - samples for you to use
Accessible information design - why it matters and who it benefits
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