VISITORS to Westonbirt Arboretum will have new treats to see in future, as the forests there are expanding after almost 180 years.

Forestry England and the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum have bought Silk Wood House, next to Westonbirt Arboretum for £1.65 million. The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum contributed £750,000.

The purchase includes 29 acres and Silk Wood House, a traditional Cotswold stone building, three grass fields and a series of outbuildings.

Though there are no detailed plans yet as to how Westonbirt Arboretum will use the property. It is the first expansion since 1840, when Robert Holford, the arboretum’s founder, purchased Silk Wood.

Andrew Smith, Forestry England’s director of Westonbirt Arboretum said: “Everyone at Westonbirt Arboretum is extremely excited about this once in a lifetime opportunity, and there is no shortage of ideas as to how we will use Silk Wood House.

“Over the next two years we plan to take a look at the current facilities and layout of both the existing arboretum and Silk Wood House. This way we can understand how best to use this opportunity so we can fulfil our mission to connect people with trees, now and in the future.

“We will speak to members, volunteers and staff about their aspirations for the arboretum, when deciding what to do.

“We are incredibly grateful to Inger and Olle, the previous owners, for giving us the chance to purchase the house and to the Friends of Westonbirt for supporting the purchase.”

Mike Mintram, chairman of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum said: “This is an amazing opportunity to expand, protect and preserve the National Arboretum. As we work with Westonbirt to develop exciting plans for the future, we can now explore more options for enhancing its role, improving facilities and delivering an even better visitor experience.”

They plan to build on this to ensure that it is ready to meet the demands of the future.

Silk Wood House was never part of the original Victorian estate, owned by the wealthy Holford family. In 1920 it was bought by an American woman who originally planned to build a larger house for herself closer to the arboretum. However she never went ahead with the plan after deciding she didn't like the British climate.