About the Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway
Opened on International Biodiversity Day 2008, the Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway stands in the Arboretum, between the Temperate House and the lake. It was designed by Marks Barfield Architects, who also designed the London Eye. The 18-metre high, 200-metre walkway enables visitors to walk around the crowns of lime, sweet chestnut and oak trees. Supported by rusted steel columns that blend in with the natural environment, it provides opportunities for inspecting birds, insects, lichen and fungi at close quarters, as well as seeing blossom emerging and seed pods bursting open in spring. The walkway’s structure is based on a Fibonacci numerical sequence, which is often present in nature’s growth patterns.
At the entrance to the Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway are sculptures carved from tree trunks illustrating microscopic elements of trees to explain how trees grow. Leaves, for example, have breathing pores shaped like lips and tubes called ‘phloem’ pump sap from leaves to fruits and roots. A path lined with examples of different timbers leads visitors below ground to the Rhizotron. Inside, an installation explains the relationships that exist between tree roots, the soil and organisms such as nematodes, beetles, woodlice and bacteria. On the floor is a mosaic inspired by the mutually beneficial relationships that exist between many plant roots and fungi.
Access guide: Treetop Walkway
The Treetop Walkway is accessible to the public via a stairway consisting of 118 steps.The Xstrata Treetop Walkway lift is in service and available for disabled and mobility-impaired visitors. Visitors are encouraged to use the stairs where possible ensuring the lift remains available to those that need it most. Children’s pushchairs are not permitted on the walkway and children must be supervised at all times.
Access guide: Rhizotron
The Rhizotron is fully wheelchair-accessible. You enter via a path on a gentle downwards slope with handrail, on a smooth surface. The exit path is an identical upward slope.
Frequently asked questions
Is the Treetop Walkway open?
Yes, the walkway is always open during visitor hours. Last entry is 45 minutes before the Gardens close.
How many steps are there up to the walkway?
There are 118 steps from the lower ground level to the walkway.
Is there wheelchair access?
A lift is available for disabled and mobility-impaired visitors.
Does the walkway close for bad weather?
Storms, high winds, snow and ice can cause the walkway (and indeed the Gardens) to close on occasion. For information on this check, our Visitor Notices in the Plan Your Visit area.
Is there a charge?
No, the walkway is free of charge.
Can I take a pushchair?
Children’s pushchairs are not permitted on the walkway and children must be supervised at all times. Pushchairs and buggies can be left at ground level at the owner’s risk.
Are there any height or age restrictions?
No, there are no restrictions; anybody can enjoy the walkway.
Are there any restrictions for pregnant women?
No, there are no restrictions for expectant mothers. They can make their own choice whether to go up but should be aware that there are 118 steps.
What are the dimensions of the Walkway
The Walkway is 18 metres high, 200 metres long and has 118 steps in ten sections with eight landings.
How high are the handrails?
The handrails on the landings are 1.3 metres high, and are topped with laminated sweet chestnut wood (Castanea sativa).
Does the Walkway move around as people walk on it?
The Treetop Walkway is designed to the highest safety standards and it would be physically impossible to get enough people onto it to exceed its load-bearing capacity. The structure is designed to flex slightly in the wind as this ensures it would not break at high wind speeds. It is inspected regularly and all components were thoroughly checked before being incorporated into the structure.
How do I call help in an emergency?
Emergency assistance is available at the help point intercom next to the lift entrances or by calling 020 8332 5121 on your mobile phone.