In nature, most of us find some peace and quiet. In grief, we search for peace – and in Britain, most people search silently. When Edmund Kell Blyth returned from fighting in the First World War he, like many others, had lost a great number of friends. He wanted to remember three in particular, men who had served alongside him, but he longed for more than just another memorial. He imagined a place that they themselves would have enjoyed – as well as providing a sanctuary for future generations.
That’s what sparked the creation of the Tree Cathedral, officially known as the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral,a short drive from St Albans.
I visited under much happier circumstances, with a group of friends still very much alive and already enjoying themselves. It helped, it has to be said, that the Tourdust team (which included three spirited young children) leaped out from behind the hedges to offer us mulled wine and laughter.
From the ground, it’s a little difficult to make out the cathedral’s shape. Every now and then, a cluster of oaks or limes take on the shape of a wall, some silver birches perhaps an archway.
Blyth, with the help of Albert Bramson, planted these trees by hand in a labour of love that took almost a decade. They planted cherry blossom in the Easter Chapel, Norway spruce for Christmas and decked summer in whitebeam & rowan.
Our pilgrimage took place in autumn, when beech and field maple starred in this leafy show.
Perhaps the eclesiastical outline becomes obvious from the sky, in the same way that the Nazca lines in Peru form lizards and hunters when seen from the air. From earth, however, its structure remained mysterious, although it did provide a chance to find peace.
I visited the Tree Cathedral with friends on a trip called #BlogStAlbans. Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, Whipsnade, Dunstable, Bedfordshire LU6 2LL, Telephone: +44 1582 872406