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Gloucestershire Business News

Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum appoint new chair

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum (FoWA) have appointed a new chair and new trustees.

The charity, which has over 37,000 members, supports the arboretum to protect the world-renowned tree collection, to share knowledge and to connect people with nature to enhance their lives.

New chair Neil Sachdev was awarded an MBE for his work in energy efficiency and sustainability. The new trustees are Christian Walker and Nigel Frost from the National Trust and next door neighbours Highgrove Enterprises.

These new appointments bring diverse skills, thinking, and experience to support plans for a strong and successful future for the organisation, at one of the most significant and exciting times in the history of both FoWA and the arboretum.

Working with Forestry England to deliver a shared vision, the refreshed board and chair will support the CEO to develop a new three-year strategy launching in early 2024.

Neil Sachdev has a strong and successful track record with experience in climate change sustainability, change management, strategy and corporate governance.

He currently serves as chair of the HM Land Registry Board, chair of the East West Railway Company and chair of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation Board for the Ministry of Defence.

Previously, Neil was the group property director of Sainsbury and Tesco's board director responsible for UK property and operations. He has an MBA from Stirling University.

Neil said: "I am delighted to be taking up the role of chair here at the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum. The arboretum has been a favourite place of mine to visit for many years and I am looking forward to seeing what we can achieve through my tenure and work with the board and Forestry England.

"It is an important time globally for tree conservation and managing the impact of climate change on the environment. The arboretum plays an important role in all our futures."

Neil succeeds Mike Mintram, who has been FoWA's chair since 2016. Mike oversaw the development of the Westonbirt 10-Year Vision in partnership with Forestry England, which sets out the future direction of the arboretum's development as "a world leader in trees", inspiring many more people to connect with trees through themes of "conservation, education, and participation".

Mike stated: "FoWA has had a major impact through supporting Westonbirt in a rapidly changing world. I'm confident that with the appointment of Neil Sachdev and new trustees FoWA can look forward to an exciting future and help Forestry England transform the Westonbirt experience."

Mike and fellow trustees were instrumental in securing the purchase of Silk Wood House and associated land - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand the arboretum site. During his tenure, the membership of the Friends has grown to a staggering 37,000 members, providing invaluable financial support and advocacy for the development of the arboretum.

Emma Griffiths, FoWA CEO, said: "This is a really exciting time to be leading the charity. We are building positive and supportive relationships with our partners at Forestry England and refreshing our vision and strategy for the future.

"The appointment of a new chair and trustees completes our expert board and will add value to our strategy development and contributions to building a bright future for Westonbirt, the National Arboretum which is an incredible resource for the county of Gloucestershire and beyond."

Andrew Smith, Forestry England director, Westonbirt Arboretum, said: "We are delighted to hear about the new board appointments. During Mike's time as chair, we have made huge steps in developing Westonbirt together and we wish him well for the future. We extend a warm welcome to Neil, Christian and Nigel and look forward to working together to continue to deliver our shared 10- Year Vision for Westonbirt."

Nigel Frost has a strong track record in retail and visitor attractions. He is currently head of merchandising and supply chain for Highgrove Enterprises, previously acting CEO. Prior to this, Nigel held the positions of merchandise manager, then business change manager at English Heritage.

With his extensive retail and visitor attraction experience, Nigel will be a great support to the development of the shop amongst other areas of the charity.

Christian Walker is the general manager of the National Trust's West Oxfordshire portfolio comprising the Buscot and Coleshill Estate; Chastleton House; Uffington White Horse Hill; Ashdown Estate and smaller other properties. He previously served as North Worcestershire general manager.

Before joining the National Trust, he worked for a rural consultancy advising on the adaptive re-use of redundant land and buildings typically on farms and estates across the UK, a provider of environmental impact assessments for large developments, both commercial and residential and a consultancy working on restoration projects of historic buildings and landscapes.

To find out what's happening at Westonbirt Arboretum, visit 

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