Tree Cathedral

Tree Cathedral

One of the delightfully quirky features of Douglas Cook’s plantings at Eastwoodhill is the “Cathedral” at the bottom of Cabin Park. This area in 1935 was the old horse paddock and it grew little more than poor grass and bracken. Douglas started planting groups of conifers to form the nucleus of the area that he was to call “Cabin Park”. In 1936 he and his wife Claire took a trip to Britain and it could well have been during this time he planned his very own Tree Cathedral, inspired possibly by the form of the great English cathedrals they would have seen on their travels. On his return he levelled a small ridge and planted trees in the form of a simple cross. Eucalyptus Regnans form the pillars and Cupressus Lawsoniana form the walls and, what has only recently become recognisable, the chapter-house; a circle of trees to the side of the main planting. The space between the great towering columns of eucalyptus is what gives this area an almost spiritual atmosphere, even today when some of the original trees are showing signs of deterioration. Many who visit the “Cathedral” comment on the atmosphere that is created by a space within the planted forest, even more so when they discern the form of the cross that is still evident. Over the years numerous little ceremonies have been held in this special place; marriage proposals, weddings, christenings, and quiet reflective meditations. However, many of the trees are in a state of gradual decline and it is time to consider and plan for a new Tree Cathedral and so continue the vision Douglas Cook initiated 75 years ago.

The new Tree Cathedral will be located on a large flat space some distance along the Hihiroroa road and overlooked by the Curators house. The small stream flows moat like around three sides and will eventually be bridged to allow walking access from the arboretum tracks. This project is part of the Master plan that was developed by Nelson Byrd Woltz, the internationally renowned landscape architects from the U.S.A., and is the first of a number of developments that will take Eastwoodhill forward into its second century. Work on the site started between Christmas and New Year 2014. It has been cleared and ground work is well underway to provide for a raised, smooth and well drained space where the trees that will form the Cathedral design will be planted.

The dimensions are exactly the same as Westminster Abbey, 170 m. long and 70 m. wide at the widest point and this is a perfect fit for the site Selecting the most appropriate tree species is the next step; these will be planted in double rows either side of a 12m wide central aisle. Their trunks, high pruned as they age, will replicate the massive pillars of a cathedral and their interlinking branches, the vaulting of the roof. Several species will be used to provide contrasting textures and to ensure the design survives in the unfortunate event that some as yet unknown disease affects one of the chosen species. The plantings of the tree cathedral were completed in 2015. The developing trees of the cathedral – Redwood, Dawn Redwood, Linden, Ginkgo, Red Maple – have put on an impressive amount of healthy growth over the previous two years. Out of a total 135 trees there has been just one casualty, a Sequoia, which has been replaced. The Redwoods (Sequoia-single clone) which form the central pillars, quarter the size of the other species when planted, have now uniformly caught up in height and will soon be the dominant species.

Drone Footage

Tree Cathedral Updates

26 August 2020 Tree Cathedral News

August 2020

The Tree Cathedral over the past 12 months has continued to thrive. The Redwoods are all establishing very well and...

5 June 2018 Tree Cathedral News

June 2018

It is almost three years since the trees were planted on the new cathedral site. Board member Marcus Williams and...

15 September 2017 Tree Cathedral News

September 2017

From where I am sitting, on the back lawn at the Eastwoodhill homestead, gazing across Wee Flat to the young...

20 March 2016 Tree Cathedral News

March 2016

For those of you that have not met me I will quickly introduce myself. My name is Daniel Taylor and...

5 November 2015 Tree Cathedral News

From Design to Reality

During the past twelve months the Cathedral project has progressed from design to reality. The ground works are complete, grass...

1 May 2015 Tree Cathedral News


Over the past three months, the new Tree Cathedral site beside the Hihiroroa road has been transformed from a scruffy...

20 February 2015 Tree Cathedral News

The Old and the New

One of the delightfully quirky features of Douglas Cook’s plantings at Eastwoodhill is the “Cathedral” at the bottom of Cabin...

1 January 2015 Tree Cathedral News

The Original Cathedral

Douglas and Claire Cook visited Europe and Britain in 1936. While there Douglas drew the outlines and proportions of several...