First World War Commemorative Woodland

The Commemorative Woodland is a small area within the heart of Queenswood 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. Concentric circles of red oak saplings were planted in 2019, and wooden curved benches were installed to form the central circle. The benches themselves have been created from oak trees felled at Queenswood. At the heart of the artwork is a central stump. This symbolises the destruction and sacrifices of the First World War on the landscape and people of Herefordshire.

Official Opening

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 by the former First World War Commemoration Committee. The committee held events across the county to mark the centenary of the First World War. 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

Woodland Visual Artwork

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.  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 a unique living artwork.

A circle of benches surrounds the central tree stump. These were created using timber from the trees that were felled to create this new space. Ensuring the young red oaks will receive enough light to grow. A copper plaque has been elegantly placed on top, also created by Hughes. (Image above: Hughes fitting the plaque into place.)

A Living Artwork at Queenswood

It is a little-known fact that Queenswood was clear felled during the First World War. This was done to provide timber for the war effort. The felling of several trees within this area 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. 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 has a studio in Herefordshire and is a regular visitor to Queenswood.

The commission is the first visual art commission for Queenswood Arboretum.

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 also contributed, along with the public through a 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.”