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ARB Show 2023 surpasses all expectations

Author:  Arboricultural Association
  03/08/2023
Last Updated:  03/08/2023

Returning to Westonbirt for the first time in four years on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th May, the ARB Show came back with a bang.

The ARB Show Food Court is busy

In total over 6000 showgoers created a brilliant festival atmosphere all weekend, with the arb community out in force and proving that the show is the best place to put arboriculture in the spotlight. Even the rain held off as arborists enjoyed catching up with their favourite brands, meeting familiar faces and new ones.

There was plenty of choice from over 80 exhibitors on hand showcasing just how fast moving innovations are in the arb industry. In attendance were a strong mix of well-known names alongside many newer brands making their first ARB Show appearance and demonstrating the pace at which arboriculture is evolving.

Huge thanks must go to our new main sponsors Först and their amazing team, who marked their 10th anniversary by delivering on their promise of great hospitality and offering a warm, welcoming presence for show visitors.

The Arb Worker Zone sponsored by Honey Brothers was a huge success, with a tree climbing tips and tricks drop-in area led by industry experts mic’d up during each session and drawing fantastic crowds and feedback. Over at the Arborists’ Workshop, there was standing room only at many of the talks, smashing attendance records for previous ARB Show speaker sessions.

The ARB Show having fun with Bugs
The ARB Show Knot Tying Competition in full swing
The ARB Show crowds in the ARB Worker Zone
The ARB Show ARB Worker Zone

Tree Care Forum

For the first time ever, the ARB Show hosted the Association’s newly established public-facing event, Tree Care Forum, to showcase the importance of arboriculture and tree care to the community. We were bowled over by how the event captured the attention of so many visitors to Westonbirt.

The Forum, which is only in its second year, had standing room only in the Great Oak Hall for many of the presentations, engagingly chaired by John Parker. Audiences were entertained and informed by speakers covering a wealth of topics including tree nursery production; sustainable water management; tree planting and establishment; tree management within Kew Gardens; bats and trees; and tree health. To highlight the importance of inspiring the younger generation to join the industry, author and arborist Joe Robson spoke about the inspiration behind his book, Ghillie Wakes Up, and heritage tree specialist Julian Hight talked ancient trees to an enthralled audience that was over-flowing into the foyer.

We had a very special four-legged friend, Sika the Dog, giving a demonstration of decay detection around the site, and Forestry England’s own Dan Crowley gave an insightful tour of the old arboretum. There were children’s activities, Registered Consultants on hand to offer tree advice, and Russell Ball from the charity Fund4Trees gave out tree whips to all our young tree climbers to take home, plant and water.

We would like to give a big shout out to all our supporters who volunteered their time to participate in this year’s Forum: Becki Gawthorpe; Cecily Withall; Dan Crowley; David Johnson; Emma Aspin; Ian Barnes; Jasper Fulford-Dobson; Jim Mullholland; Jim Quaife; Jon Heuch; Joe Robson; Julian Hight; Russell Ball; Shane Lanigan; Wayne Isaacson – we couldn’t have done it without them. Thank you.

We have some tweaking to do and so plans are already in hand to make this special event even better for next year, ensuring that we inspire and inform more of our local communities about the importance and very cool world of urban tree care.

Tree Care Forum Logo The ARB Show Daisy Brassington with Sika

Competitions draw skill, support and a stunning new record

At the ARB Show Open climbing competition sponsored by Harkie, 35 competitors all put in an incredible effort. Great thanks must go to Harkie and all the climbers who took part - showing great skill and support for each other – and of course to all of our amazing volunteers. Special thanks also to Silky Fox UK for providing some brilliant goodies for our competitors.

‘This year’s ARB Show and Tree Care Forum was particularly special because we really wanted to make an impact after three years away from Westonbirt. Delivering this two-day event takes a massive effort by a small team at the Association during eight months of planning, and with some of us being new to the Show, an unscheduled Bank Holiday and adverse weather during build up week, it wasn’t without it challenges. However, so much positive feedback has been about the outstanding atmosphere on site which owed a great deal to the camaraderie of the Association team, our Trustees, our volunteers, our exhibitors and our suppliers who all worked together to make it such a success. I believe we pulled it off and plans are already in action for next year!’

Sarah Jackson, Training, Events and Fundraising Manager

A new competition arena saw 27 competitors take on the knot tying challenge, which for over 5 years was dominated by Mat Graham’s incredible times which would often see him complete all 5 knots in 18 seconds or less. This time Mat was on hand to volunteer and offer his expertise to competitors. The result was Jay Parker setting an amazing new record time of 15.25 seconds (Check @arboricultural_association on Instagram to see the full video.) More than any show in recent memory, there was a real feel-good atmosphere around the showground which made it one of the most successful ever. Perhaps it being the first major industry gathering since 2019 contributed to this success, but the fact that ARB Show continues to grow when many other industries are seeing a decline in in-person events can only be a positive sign. For the Association it was just great to be back reuniting this arb community of passionate people, so keen to support each other as professionals, learn, share and develop knowledge. Out thanks to all exhibitors and everyone else who made the trip to Westonbirt to enjoy an ARB Show which celebrated the growing arboricultural community and our fast-evolving industry.

Special thanks go to our army of helpers and volunteers without whom the ARB Show wouldn’t be possible:

  • Tony Lane who ensured that all personnel and structures remained safe throughout the show week.
  • Chris Cooper-Abbs, Ben Rose and Matt Brooker who ran the Arb Worker Zone.
  • Boel Hammarstrand, Paul McBride and our volunteer team for the ARB Show Open Climbing Competition.
  • All our Arborist Workshop speakers.

The ARB Show will return to Westonbirt, The National Arboretum on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th May 2024.

Women in Arboriculture (WIA) at the ARB Show

Stella Bolam, Association Trustee and WIA Committee Member

The ARB Show Women in Arboriculture stand

This year’s ARB Show featured the Association’s Women in Arboriculture (WIA) group for the first time.

The WIA stand, located within the main Association marquee, was a key focal point for anyone wanting to talk to the WIA committee members present. It displayed various PPE for visitors to examine and try on. These items – including chainsaw trousers, a helmet and boots – have been developed as prototypes by Pfanner in response to the challenges women in our sector often encounter in sourcing appropriate PPE – a topic which had been brought to this manufacturer’s attention by Andrew Hunter of UK and Ireland importer Outwear, through discussions he has had with the WIA Committee.

While these pieces have been designed with women’s bodies in mind, they are also suitable for men who may not easily find PPE which fits them well. Andrew’s Q&A sessions at the WIA stand drew considerable interest.

Some visitors to the stand talked to us about their experiences as women working in the sector and I also had some positive conversations with men who expressed their support for the group and its focus on diversity.

If you would like to contact the WIA, you can get in touch by visiting www.trees.org.uk/WIA and completing the contact form, joining our ‘Women in Arboriculture UK’ Facebook group, or connecting with our ‘Women in Arboriculture (WIA) group on LinkedIn.


This article was taken from Issue 202 Autumn 2023 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.