A sketch of a new community shelter. A brown curved structure sits in the middle with a trees set to the sides. Sketched people stand and sit around the shelter.

We're building a new Community Shelter!

In late 2017, our old Community Shelter was condemned and dismantled, leaving the community groups we work with no permanent shelter on site. This has presented us with an exciting opportunity to assess our needs and provide fit for purpose facilities that will enable us to continue to build on the success of the Community Programme.

We want the Community Shelter Project to be led by those who will be using the space. We have already worked with community groups on the design of the shelter and will continue to work with them through the next exciting build process, ‘by the community, for the community’.

Community Westonbirt

What is the Community Programme? 

Despite the arboretum attracting over 550,000 visits per year, we are aware that many people are unable to visit because of a range of societal barriers. To address this, we developed a Community Programme as part of a Heritage Lottery Funded Project in 2014. The project aimed to reach out into our local community to enable more people to benefit from the arboretum. Evidence gathered during this project led us to look at growing the programme further to enable more people to access Westonbirt and take part in activities that support better mental health and wellbeing.

Find out more

More than just a shelter

Through our work with community groups we have learnt that the provision of suitable facilities is a key enabling factor to the success of engaging marginalised communities; both in terms of providing physical shelter from the elements and, more importantly, giving participants a ‘home’ that provides a safe and familiar space they can take ownership of.

Through consultation with participants and group leaders we developed a wish list of key ingredients that will make the new space more than just a shelter. This includes both the basic functional elements (such as size, weatherproof, lifespan, storage) as well as more intangible aspects that will provide the space with an inclusive, uplifting and welcoming ambience (such as lightness, warmth, the ability to participate and celebrate success).

Most importantly, through this discussion we came to realise that the key to the project is not just building a structure; it is building it with the community. We want want participants to be involved throughout, not just the initial ideas phase but the build process as well. This will enable them to develop new skills, learn to work with others and grow in self-confidence.

A young man dressed in a red coat stares down at a long piece of wood that he is sawing to fit to size. A gentleman in a green coat watches over to support him.
2 gentlemen dressed in winter coats and hats look intently over a wooden arched structure.

Building the Community Shelter

We’re delighted to be working with Xylotek on the build, along with the help of our community groups, to create this unique and bespoke Community Shelter in Silk Wood.

We have been fortunate enough to have worked with Invisible Studio (Piers Taylor) and Xylotek (Charley Brentall) during the design phase of the shelter. 

Xylotek is a recognised leader in the UK’s oak framing industry and has led some of the UK’s most important oak-frame conservation projects, including the restoration of the ceiling at Windsor Castle and the restoration of Shackleton and Scott’s huts in Antarctica. A perfect choice to build our new Community Shelter.

The Community Shelter build is due to start in December 2021. Revisit this webpage as we update you regularly on the progress being made.