The Duchess of Cornwall took to the treetops to see for herself autumn’s colourful display when she visited the National Arboretum.
When Camilla met staff as she toured the 600-acre site at Westonbirt, near the Prince of Wales’ Highgrove home in Gloucestershire, she said: “There’s nothing better than working outside.”
The duchess, 73, is patron of the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum, and a regular visitor over the years.
She took the opportunity to walk the picturesque Maple Loop and see the spectacular autumn display of the national collection of maples and Japanese maple cultivars.
Started in the early 1980s, the collection contains around 297 different types of cultivar, including some of the finest specimens in the UK.
Camilla, dressed in a winter coat, boots and trousers, also walked across the gardens’ 300-metre long and 13-metre high treetop walkway to see the tree canopy.
And she spoke to staff facing the task of removing trees with the fungal infection ash dieback, first identified at Westonbirt in 2015, which causes thinning in the crown and ultimately the death of ash trees.
Mark Ballard, curator at the arboretum, told the duchess that cutting down ash trees was also dangerous work because they are so brittle and liable to collapse.
“I was always taught when I started out that an ash would kill you as soon as look at you,” he said.
“We are looking at what can replace the ash and thinking about other native broadleaf trees.”
Camilla has made several other official visits to the arboretum, and in 2006 she and Charles planted the 100th maple tree in the rotary glade at Westonbirt to mark the 100th anniversary of Rotary International.
She also officially opened the arboretum’s £1.4 million Biffa Award Welcome Building and planted a tree sapling to mark its completion in 2014.
The arboretum, now run by Forestry England, was established in the 1850s by wealthy landowner Robert Holford and later developed by his son George Holford.
One of the most popular outdoor attractions in south-west England, it brings in more than 550,000 visitors a year.