Stihl Aerial Walkway, Westonbirt

The National Arboretum at Westonbirt is not only an important scientific resource but also functions as a popular visitor attraction with a valuable educational function. A recent addition is the Stihl Aerial Walkway, opened on 26 April 2016 by Ellie Harrison, the Countryfile presenter. The project sponsored by Stihl the power tool company, cost  £1.9 million,  with additionial contributions raised by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum. The walkway was designed by Glen Howells Architects with Burohappold Engineering as  structural engineers,  Speller Metcalfe as the principal contractor and SH Structures the steelwork contractor. See here for the most comprehensive account of construction. The walkway runs in an S-shape for 284 metres across the valley and gives direct access from the carpark to the Arboretum in Silk Wood at canopy level. Although the Forestry Commission had originally hoped that the whole structure would be made of wood, it was eventually decided that the deck and balustrades should be constructed in steel; each deck section is 10.5 metres long and weighs 4.5 tonnes. The walkway is supported on 20 pairs of larch timber legs spaced at  10.5 metre intervals, and reaches a maximum height of 13 metres above ground level. The deck is accessible to visitors on foot, wheelchairs and pushchairs and mobility scooters.  Seven interpretation panels are incorporated into the steel parapet. The walkway is further enhanced by a "crows nest" accessed by a short staircase, and by a separate viewing platform reached by a short suspended rope bridge. The Walkway has been recognised by a number of public awards.

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