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Our work caring for Whipsnade Tree Cathedral

Light shining through the trees at Whipsnade Tree Cathedral in Bedfordshire
Light shining through the trees at Whipsnade Tree Cathedral | © John Miller

Whipsnade Tree Cathedral

Whipsnade Tree Cathedral car park and cathedral closed from 1 July for works

We will be closing the car park and cathedral to public access from 1 July for safety reasons while we carry out tree work in the cathedral. The car park will be used to stack wood from the removed trees. We apologise for any disappointment caused.

Restoring Whipsnade Tree Cathedral

The Cloisters at Whipsnade Tree Cathedral

All cathedrals sometimes need a touch of renovation. Our tree cathedral is no different and unfortunately, our walls are starting to crumble!

Many of our trees have been hit by ash dieback, a fungal disease that has weakened their structures. Sadly, they will not recover and so must be felled.

From July 2024, we are beginning a large-scale project to remove the infected ash trees and their stumps. Once removed, we will re-plant with native wild-service trees. These will not only seek to restore the Cathedral to its former glory, it will also future-proof the area for climate change, create new habitats and increase our pollinating spots.

No tree will go to waste! The lengths are to be stacked for collection and used for woodchip paths at Ashridge (a property within our National Trust portfolio). The stumps will be moved to nearby Dell Fields for deadwood habitat creation.

Additionally, we will also be removing some of the larger spruces in our Christmas chapel. These have outgrown the space and are therefore affecting the health of the smaller trees. By replanting with a succession of different heights and species, we can encourage diversity and let more light in.

The work will all contribute to restoring Whipsnade Tree Cathedral back to Edmund Blyth's original vision.

The Cathedral and car park will be fully closed for two week from 1 July, with partial closures extending throughout the work. Please check here for any updates.

We thank you for your support during this time.

Whipsnade Tree Cathedral in Bedfordshire, created following the First World War
Whipsnade Tree Cathedral | © National Trust Images/David Sellman

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are we removing trees from the Tree Cathedral?

There are two different types of trees we are removing from the tree cathedral and both for different reasons. Firstly we are removing Ash trees that have unfortunately succumbed to Ash Dieback and have therefore died and become a visitor safety issue. Seconding we are removing Spruce trees that have grown too large and are now blocking out the light to the site.

Why is this work being done now? Is there a risk to nesting birds?

We are completing the work now so that the ground conditions are dry and therefore less damage will be caused to this special site. There is a risk that if we leave it later on in the year then the ground conditionns will become too wet causing the ground to get churned up by the machinery.

We have been monitoring the trees carefully and are confident that there are no nesting birds present within the trees indentified for removal.

Are you replanting new trees in the place of those that have been removed?

Yes we are. We are replacing the Ash trees with Wild Service trees that are relatively rare but native broadleaf tree. Described as "a true springtime stunner", wild service produce a beautiful blossom in spring and then provide stunning autumn colour as the leaves turn golden shades before falling from the tree. We hope that these will provide more biodiversity for wildlife, colour interest throughout the year and will be more disease resistant than other species, helping to secure the future of this special place. We will also be replacing the spruces with smaller spruces that can be used as Christmas trees in nearby Dunstable Downs visitor centre when they get to a certain size and then replaced with smaller spruces ensure succession and not allowing them to get too large.

What is happening to the wood from the trees you remove?

Stumps will be placed in a nearby field as part of a wood pasture creation project and the trunks will be stacked in the car park before being taken to Ashridge Estate where they will be used for various purposes.

Will the tree cathedral open after the works are completed?

Yes the car park and tree cathedral will be reopened to visitors but the Cloisters will remain closed for a little while to allow the ground to recover and settle.

Will the tree cathedral look different?

Yes it will look different especially with the removal of the larger spruce trees which will allow more light in. We are removed the stumps of the trees which can look quite stark but this is so we can replant trees in the same place as the removed trees. We are also doing some work to improve the seating and planting of the garden area.

The Nave looking to the Chancel at Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, Bedfordshire

History of Whipsnade Tree Cathedral 

One man's vision to create a legacy for his fallen comrades. Discover how Edmund K. Blyth created the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral.

Sheep grazing at Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire

Dunstable Downs and Whipsnade Estate 

Spectacular views of rolling chalk grasslands and a seemingly endless sky in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Dunstable, Bedfordshire

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