ONE of the Cotwold’s most popular attractions is celebrating after being awarded a £1.9m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The National Arboretum at Westonbirt was awarded the grant to carry out construction of a new visitor’s centre and car park along with restoration of the landscape.

Construction of the new car park is set to begin at the start of 2013 while work will on the Welcome Centre is expected to start in the summer.

Arboretum director Simon Toomer said he was delighted to have been awarded the grant.

"This is a great step forward in realising our ambitious plans to raise the level of the arboretum's visitor and learning facilities to match that of its world class tree collection,” he said.

“This award will go a long way to help make Westonbirt a place where all visitors can enjoy and learn so much more about the arboretum and its trees.”

Heritage Lottery Fund South West head Richard Bellamy said the organisation was impressed by the Forestry Commission’s vision for conserving the landscape of the arboretum and improving the facilities.

“Plans for a volunteer programme – Westonbirt's very own 'Gamesmakers' – will also make a huge difference to both conservation and education work on site,” he added.

The new Welcome Building will contain information about the arboretum and details of events around the attraction. Once it is completed, the existing car park, which sits on Grade I registered land, will be restored to wildflower-rich grassland.

The funding will also allow the arboretum to work towards projects including a new tree walkway and a tree management centre.

The arboretum is also planning to work with community groups at risk of social inclusion as part of the work.

Television presenter and environmentalist Chris Packham said: “Westonbirt is truly magical so I'm chuffed to hear this news."

“I can't stress enough the importance of this particular arboretum – it's the natural world's equivalent of an outdoor museum and gives us a much greater understanding of the variety and value of trees," he added.

“The Heritage Lottery Fund has a fantastic track record for supporting the UK's landscapes and wildlife and this investment of nearly £2m will delight the many of us who are passionate about trees and the environment.”