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The Festival Of The Tree 2006
Westonbirt Arboreteum
Gloucestershire, England


By Lesley Wyatt
Introduction by Matt Kelley


The Festival Of The Tree is a major annual event at Westonbirt, The UK National Arboretum near Tetbury, Gloucestershire. The 2006 Festival ran 21 to 28 August, with three major activities: Sculptree, Exhibitree and Family Tree.

For Sculptree, an even dozen wood sculptors are selected from many applicants; the twelve come to Westonbirt and carve major pieces on site. Sculptree culminates with a auction of these pieces, with half the proceeds going to Tree-Aid, and the balance to the sculptors and Westonbirt.

WOM's UK correspondent, Lesley Wyatt, and her husband Jeff attended the Exhibitree portion of the Festival of Trees, where they displayed Lesley's pyrography with Jeff's hand-braided rope frames and his decorative ropework.   They were both demonstrating their crafts, generating lots of interest for visitors.


Here's Lesley's report:

Things were a bit different at the Festival this year, with no Matthew to keep us all in order - a new 'in-house' management team were organising things. This time it was to be a four-day show instead of the usual three. A new and quite different layout made it rather confusing when we arrived on the Wednesday, but eventually we found our plot and started getting ourselves organised. This always takes far longer than it should - each year we get to know more and more exhibitors, so every time someone arrived we just had to down tools to go and say "hallo". There is room for improvement in the way it was run - but as Rachel, who was in charge, said " It's a huge learning curve for all involved".

The chainsaw carvers were hard at it when we arrived - their time at the show had started a few days earlier and continued until Monday afternoon when their works were to be auctioned off to members of the public with deep pockets (and big gardens). The auction is in aid of Tree Aid, a charity whose aim is to provide training to help people in the poorest parts of Africa secure vital income from tree products. It also works village-by-village supporting community forestry projects. I believe one man who has bought several carvings over the past few years, bought another five this year at an average price of around £900. (What a pity he doesn't seem to know about pyrography!!!) As usual the standard was very high, and I'm just sorry that I didn't have more time to stand and watch them.

There was something going on over the whole of the 4 days. Workshops for both adults and children, displays of tree climbing, demonstrations of chainsaw carving, master classes for lettering, box making, hand-cut dovetails, tool sharpening and much more. There were both outdoor stands and smaller indoor ones in a big marquee - anything and everything to do with wood was on sale. Jewellery, walking sticks, furniture, sculptures, turned work, games and puzzles, boxes, Welsh love spoons, herbal remedies. Then there was all the wood available - planks, turning blocks, walking-stick blanks. Finishing materials - lacquers, polishes etc. The only problem is, when you're involved with the show you just don't have the time to visit all the stands, although I did manage a few and probably spent nearly as much as we made!!! (Jeff reckons more!!!)

Many guilds and societies were exhibiting too - The British Woodcarving Association, Bristol Bonsai Society, The British Toymakers Guild, etc.

We were very busy most of the time on our stand, although, as usual, with most of the people it was all chat and no buy. But we still enjoyed ourselves. We covered our expenses and had a most enjoyable Bank Holiday weekend. Will we do it again next year - of course we will.

Photo Tour of the wood carvings and Festival site HERE.

Lesley Wyatt
Wydon Crafts


Visit thses sites for more details about the chainsaw carvers and their works, the Festival and Tree-Aid,

Tree-Aid www.treeaid.org.uk
Festival site www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-festivalofthetree