Whipsnade Tree Cathedral

After spending yesterday servicing the bike, we decided to take it out for a run to visit the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral and Dunstable Downs.

After riding up through Hemel Hemstead we headed out through the Bedfordshire countryside to Whipsnade.

The Tree Cathedral is not far from the Whipsnade Zoo and was conceived by Edmund Kell Blyth who wanted to combine the beauty of nature and a great cathedral. He wanted to commemorate three comrades who served alongside him in the First World War. Over a nine year period Edmund and a friend Albert Bransom planted oaks, limes, silver birches, yew, tulip trees, chestnuts, cherry, Norway spruce, white beam, rowan, beech, field maple, gospel oak, deodar cedar, Atlantic cedar, birch, Scots pine, holly, ash, cypress, in a pattern of a medieval Cathedral. Although the Cathedral is not consecrated, it’s been used by many couples for their weddings. A ring of yellow roses and ash around the dew pond in the centre also indicated that a few days ago it was used for spreading someone’s ashes. It would be hard to find a more fitting place for the most memorable days.

It’s got a wonderful feeling and in the hedged areas there are seats where it’s nice to sit in quiet reflection surrounded by the beauty of nature.

It was interesting reading a sign in the car-park which stated that the fence is covered in many different types of lichen, many quite old and rare. The policy is to replace only sections as it breaks and only with untreated wood so that it can provide a home for the lichen.

The ride up to Dunstable Downs was quite nice and not far. Dunstable Downs is an escarpment which looks over Bedfordshire. We parked and walked up to the visitor centre. It’s interesting seeing how the Visitor Centre has been designed to make use of the environment. A steel sculpture on the escarpment is actually a wind catcher which air conditions the building. Meanwhile, the roof of the visitor centre is insulated and heat reflective glass.

We sat outside enjoying a coffee, overlooking the valley below. The view from the escarpment is quite beautiful. The London Gliding club is based at the airfield below the escarpment and it was really nice sitting watching the gliders taking off. It was interesting watching the different ways they were being launched. There were gliders being towed by planes and others being pulled by a wire which once airborne they released the wire to drift back to earth attached to a parachute. The gliders circled around riding the air currents for quite a while before dropping down following the edge of the escarpment and landing.

The grey clouds started rolling in so we headed for home. We really enjoyed Dunstable Downs and Whipsnade area a little bit of country close to the city.

Take care Michele and Ron

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