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The Tree Cathedral Whipsnade

The nave of the Tree Cathedral looking west January 2009
The nave of the Tree Cathedral looking west January 2009

The Tree Cathedral was created by Edmund Blyth, who bought Chapel Farm in 1927. He had earlier lived at Rosemary Cottage. A twenty acre site just to the north-west of the farm was used for chickens but he had a vision to plant numerous species of trees in a cruciform pattern as a memorial to two friends, Arthur Bailey and John Bennett, killed in the First World War. He began planting in 1930 but the work was unfinished at the outbreak of World War Two when he rejoined his regiment. On his return in 1947 he began the task once more.

Blyth was helped in his initial task by Albert Bransom of Yew Tree Cottage. The war memorial for Whipsnade, in the church, commemorates Albert and his wife Mary's son, Private Frederick Bransom. He died of wounds when serving with 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment on 1st August 1916, aged 22. He is buried at La Neuville British Cemetery in Corbie. The 2nd Battalion had been involved the previous day in a fierce fight on the Somme at a place, now destroyed apart from a memorial cross, called Maltzkorn Farm just south of Trones Wood near Guillemont. It was probably in this action that Frederick received the wounds from which he died. The battalion's War Diary notes 6 officers and 186 other ranks becoming casualties on that day.

The war memorial January 2013
The war memorial January 2013

In 1960 The Bedfordshire Magazine (volume VII page 257) noted: "A green cathedral at Whipsnade has been given to the National Trust by Mr. E. K. Blyth. An interdenominational service is held every year at this 20-acre woodland grove where the trees have been planted in the form of the ground plan of a cathedral". The site is still in the care of The National Trust at the time of writing [2014].

The nave of the Tree Cathedral looking east January 2009
The nave of the Tree Cathedral looking east January 2009