First World War Commemorative Woodland

The Commemorative Woodland is a small area within the heart of the Arboretum dedicated to the lives lost in the First World War and the contributions made to the war effort by the people and landscapes of Herefordshire.

A simple chestnut paling fence encircles the space which has been created by Artist Des Hughes. This comproses of concentric circles of red oak saplings, planted in 2019, with wooden curved benches forming the central circke; these have themselves been created from oak trees felled at Queenswood. At the heart of the artwork is a central stump which symbpolises the destruction and sacrifices of the First World War on the landscape and people of Herefordshire.

On Saturday 29th June 2019, the First World War Commemorative Woodland was dedicated by The Reverend Paul Roberts CF and Rt Reverend Richard Frith, Bishop of Hereford in the presence of the Dowager Countess of Darnley, CVO., JP, the Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire, Her Majesty The Queen’s personal representative in the county.

Queenswood was chosen for this poignant memorial over two years ago by the former First World War Commemoration Committee that held events across the county to mark the centenary of the First World War and the dedication was part of wider events taking place throughout the County as part of Armed Forces Day.

Rose Farrington, Project Officer, Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum:
“We wanted to commission an artist who could make connections between the history and context of Queenswood, physically and conceptually and help people to think differently about the site.”

The Artist

The artist behind the work is Des Hughes, a renowned sculptor who has previously exhibited at The Hepworth, Wakefield and Nottingham Contemporary and has work in the Arts Council Collection. For this unique artwork, Hughes designed a planting scheme that has seen twenty-five red oak trees planted in concentric circles moving out from a central oak tree stump.

A circle of benches surrounds the central tree stump – created using timber from trees that were felled to ensure the newly planted red oaks will receive enough light to grow – a copper plaque elegantly placed on top, also created by Hughes. (Image above: Hughes fitting the plaque into place.)

It is a little-known fact that Queenswood was clear felled during the First World War to provide timber for the war effort, the felling of several trees within this small section of the woodland at Queenswood has allowed us to share this important historical link with the war. Groups of primary school children are already using the commemorative woodland space for educational trips and leaving the tree stumps visible within the woodland helps to bring this interesting history to life.

Hughes has created a living artwork that will grow and change over time and will serve as a reminder of the impact the Great War had on families, communities and landscapes.

Hughes whose studio is located in Herefordshire and is a regular visitor to Queenswood, has created a tree planting of concentric circle in the commemorative woodland, says of his commission.

The commission is the first visual art commission for Queenswood.

The commemorative woodland and artwork have been developed with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, several local grant funders and through a public fundraising appeal.

“I am very interested in the layered history of the area and in particular the fact that Queenswood was clear-felled to provide wood for the war effort by the Woman’s Timber Corps. But rather than this clearing action being seen as a negative, I think it can be understood as a series of ripples moving outwards, local small actions having a positive effect on the larger war effort and the long-term effect as the birth of Queenswood as we know it today.”

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Sir John Foley, Chair of the former First World War Commemoration Committee in Herefordshire said:

“This commemoration is a perfect and lasting record of the huge sacrifices made by the people of Herefordshire in the Great War. To highlight this important historical event for Herefordshire, a visual artwork by Des Hughes was commissioned to sit within the woodland atop Dinmore Hill. The work comprises concentric circles of differing tree species providing contrasting colours.”