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  • Andrew Shipley

Westonbirt Unseen

Updated: Nov 28, 2021

Westonbirt Unseen was about enabling visitors to the national arboretum in Gloucestershire to experience its pleasures and treasures from a new perspective.

Many people go to the arboretum to enjoy the rich autumn colour of leaves and fruits. But what if you can’t see the trees?

The Sensing Nature guided walks at Westonbirt offer a different way of experiencing autumn. Led by visually impaired guides and their lovely dogs, these walks encourage you to stop, feel, listen, smell and think.

You might become aware of the earth and roots beneath your feet and the wind against your face, the rustle of the canopy or the chatter of children, the sharp citrusy smell of a leaf rubbed between your fingers, the knotty toughness of a branch. You might appreciate the astonishing dimensions of trees and develop a new sense of their form and structure. You might find words to record and retain your experience. All of this equals and enhances the conventional visual pleasure of autumn at Westonbirt.

The project has impact on many levels. It give visitors a new experience of nature, it enables disabled people to participate in new ways, and it disrupts attitudes to visually impaired people.

The model is highly replicable in any managed natural heritage site. To find out more email

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