Arboretum branches out with UK's longest treetop walkway

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The walkway snakes through the trees at the Westonbirt Arboretum

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A newly-opened treetop walkway in the UK is said to be the longest in the country. The 300-m (984-ft) path at Westonbirt Arboretum takes visitors into the tree canopy, providing a perspective that would otherwise not be possible, along with views out across the surrounding landscape.

Designed by Glenn Howells Architects in partnership with engineers Buro Happold, the walkway is reminiscent of the Sky Walk at the Dolní Morava resort in the Czech Republic. Where the Sky Walk spirals upwards, though, the Westonbirt Arboretum walkway snakes through the trees, starting and finishing at ground level and using the natural relief of the land to rise up to 13 m (43 ft) in places.

"The walkway allows all visitors, regardless of age or ability, to experience the site from the treetops for the first time," says Glenn Howells.

Four enlarged sections of the walkway provide opportunities for visitors to pause and take in the environment. In addition, a crow's nest rises up from the walkway at one point, wrapping around a 36-m (118-ft) tall black pine tree. From here visitors are afforded the most expansive views of all.

According to Glenn Howells Architects, the walkway was created using "advanced computational parametric principles," which means using algorithms to calculate the design within certain parameters. The results include a continuous visual flow of legs at regular 10.5-m (34-ft) intervals and foundations carefully located to avoid impacting any trees.

As part of the design process, the materials for the walkway were chosen to complement its surroundings. Strong, light steel is employed to minimize the size of the structure and its subsequent impact on the environment, while timber legs that will age naturally over time were also chosen.

Westonbirt Arboretum has been developed and maintained by the UK's Forestry Commission since 1956. It covers 243 ha (600 ac) and is home to five national collections of trees, 3,000 species and over 15,000 specimens. The walkway opened to the public yesterday.

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