Friday, 8 June 2018

WWW = Whipsnade, Woods, WW1...

If people know the name Whipsnade, they generally think of the zoo. The ZSL [Zoological Society of London] opened the world's first 'open animal park' here in 1931.
But in the same year, a man named Edmund K Blyth was also  in Whipsnade, just up the road from the zoo, busy with another enterprise.
Blyth had been an infantryman in WW1, and his two best friends had been killed in that conflict. In 1930, his third friend, who had survived the war with him, was killed in a car crash. Soon after, Blyth and his wife made a journey to see the new Cathedral in Liverpool. As they drove home, through the Cotswolds, he was struck by the beauty and majesty of the trees, as the setting sun lit up a coppice on the hill. He felt this glorious natural display was perhaps amore fitting csort of memorial.
So he set about planting a "Tree Cathedral" - where the trees would grown up to form the 'walls' of a sacred place dedicated to the memory of those who had been lost. He wanted to create a place of "faith, hope and reconciliation"
Blyth said "The Tree Cathedral has the shape of a traditional medieval cathedral, but formed of trees. Although it contains beautiful areas, that is not its primary significance. It is managed to emphasise the vigour and balance of individual plants, in patterns that create an enclosure of worship and meditation, offering heightened awareness of God's presence and transcendence."
The planting was interrupted by WW2, but on his return, Blyth resumed his work. His son also became involved, and in 1960, the Cathedral was given to the National Trust.
We've just been a way at a conference for a few days, and I asked Bob if we could divert our route to visit this place. Nobody else around, we walked together through the sun dappled corridors of trees.
The different sections of the cathedral are planted up with a wide variety of trees - look at this list!
Ash( cloister walk)Beech(summer chapel, corner towers); Cherry (autumn circle, Easter chapel, dew pond enclosure); Cedar (north transept, Christmas chapel, lady chapel); Cypress(dew pond enclosure); Hornbeam (south entrance avenue) ; Horse chestnut (transepts, western approach); Lime (nave); Lombardy poplar (corner towers); Norway maple (Wallsam Way)Norway spruce(Christmas chapel); Oak(south entrance, nave, Gospel Oak); Rowan (summer chapel); Silver birch(chancel, corner towers) Scots pine (corner towers, north transept, western approach); Whitebeam(south entrance, summer chapel); Willow (dew pond enclosure); Yew (summer chapel, Wallsam Way, chancel)
Every summer there is an interdenominational service in the Cathedral - this year will be particularly special, marking the centenary of the end of the conflict.
I should imagine the atmosphere of worship in such beautfiul surroundings will be quite amazing.
It is free to visit, and there is a carpark - but the site itself seemed to us to be a little lacking in information panels. You can read all about the cathedral on the National Trust website. More information here too - I wish I had printed these pages out beforehand, it would have been useful. 

Sadly traffic and time pressure meant we did not have long there-but it is indeed a beautiful place, and I should love to go again.


  1. It sounds like a lovely place to visit, Angela. I enjoyed reading about it.

  2. That sounds a wonderful place and I would love to go there!

  3. What an amazing tribute - such a wonderful idea.

  4. I've been there too. It is wonderful.


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!