Oxford's Harcourt Arboretum can now progress with plans to install an ecologically sensitive composting toilet near the working woodland area, thanks to a generous donation of £15,000. The gift will enhance the Arboretum's current facilities significantly, enabling the site to cater more fully for both visitors and on-site staff.
The Arboretum welcomes around 40,000 visitors each year, however there are currently no toilet facilities beyond those found at the entrance lodge. This severely limits the number and type of activities that can take place throughout the year.
'Having a second toilet facility on site will enable far more of the Arboretum to be made accessible to school groups,' explains Curator Ben Jones. 'Families and larger groups will also be encouraged to stay longer and explore more of the Arboretum, and public education courses will run more smoothly without participants having to head back to the lodge for rest breaks.'
Donor Helen Potts was inspired to give after holding a family party at the Arboretum's woodland barn four years ago. 'I saw the whole range of possible opportunities the barn could provide,' she says. 'Sadly, everything has been held back because of the lack of facilities.'
The toilet as an educational tool
Plans are also being drawn up that will see the composting toilet used as an educational tool in its own right. Once fully operational, visitors will be able to learn about the workings of the Arboretum from the new facility, including the materials and processes used in its construction, the reasons for building it, the way that waste is managed, and the benefits to the plants growing at the site. Woodland craft courses will also be run in the adjacent woodland barn.
'A composting loo might not be the most glamorous thing with which to be associated,' adds Helen. 'However I hope my donation will soon lead to the barn and Arboretum being used for many new activities, at the same time as encouraging visitors to think about the environmental benefits.'
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