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Man grows Hamilton’s tree-church out of live vegetation in 4 years

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Barry Cox's Hamilton-based tree-church in North Island
Barry Cox’s Hamilton-based tree-church in North Island

New Zealander Barry Cox designed and grew this beautiful ‘living church’ from a wide variety of trees. It took him just four years to complete. Some are bigger trees with thicker stone trunks – others have sparse foliage to let the sunlight in. Denser shrubbery provides a wall around it. And little round trees outside it, make the ‘churchyard’ like something from a fairytale.

Inside the chapel, there’s a marble altar and attractive wooden brown benches form ‘pews’. Apart from an iron frame, supporting it, the whole church is made from ‘breathing’ green trees. There’s even a tranquil pond area, with rocks and willow.

The secret to his success is that he used huge mechanical spades, which can replant whole live trees. He uses them in his day job, as owner of a gardening company called Tree Locations. The technology meant that he was able to put the trees into any arrangement he wanted – enabling him to realize his dream of building the stunning church.

Years travelling abroad and observing different churches around the world had informed his design. Cox, 64, said: “I walked out my back door one day and thought ‘That space needs a church’ – and so it began. I cleared the area in April 2011 and made the iron frame, drawing on all the research I had done over the years of studying churches.

“I wanted the roof and walls to be distinctly different, to highlight the proportions, just like a masonry church. People know how much I love trees, so they call me when there are trees that would otherwise be cut down and I kind of rescue them.”

The former dairy farmer says couples are queuing up to get married inside the Hamilton-based church on North Island.
Not surprisingly, either. It’s absolutely gorgeous. You have to see the tree-church it to ‘be-leaf it!’


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