On Saturday 21 August, 70 people gathered in Goldwell Park, Newbury, to dedicate our two Lockdown Woods in Newbury as memorials to all the losses of the coronavirus pandemic, and to the hope for a brighter future for us all.
The event began with a minute’s silence in memory of people who have died during the COVID crisis. It included live music from ‘Sing the World’, a local A Cappella group, poetry from Hungerford schoolchildren, several moving speeches and concluded with the unveiling of a plaque.
Dr Susan Millington, our project coordinator, said “We are gathered here to mourn, and also to celebrate - to mourn family and friends who tragically died during the COVID pandemic; to mourn those now living with long covid, mental or financial problems from lockdown; to mourn for the difficulties of our young people, struggling with lack of vital schooling or jobs .But also to celebrate: the power of community to come together to support each other in difficult times; the power of community to plant woodlands to help the healing of our souls and the planet; the coming together of groups to plant our three memorial Lockdown Woods, so people can plant trees to remember loved ones, and have beautiful natural places to visit for reflection and healing."
Councillor Rick Jones, Vice-Chair of West Berkshire Council, said ‘When Newbury Friends of the Earth started this project and approached local councils to plant trees, we were ready to welcome the initiative and to support it, because we recognised the value of such schemes as this in terms of combating the effects of climate change. I sincerely hope that Lockdown Wood will provide a place of peace, comfort and remembrance for those who have been affected by the pandemic.'
The Mayor of Newbury, Billy Drummond, said 'I've been fortunate enough not to know anyone with covid19, and I count my blessings every day. I'd like to thank Newbury Town Council staff and councillors for all the help they have given to this project. I'm really pleased to know that there's going to be future Lockdown Woods tree planting on Stroud Green, which is in my ward, and I'm looking forward to that.'
Members of the A Cappella group ‘Sing the World’ Tessa Hall, Helen Wright and Dawn Sellick performed two beautiful songs for the assembly, ‘Blessing’ and ‘Trees bend your branches down’, with gorgeous harmonising.
Dr Harry Craven, an ICU doctor from the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, gave a moving account of his life during the first surge of the pandemic in his intensive care ward, showing us a cumbersome military-grade respirator he was given to wear in the first week. Dr Craven is raising an oak sapling for the next Lockdown Wood, and said ‘I was brought up not 100m from here, and spent my life in this park. This project means a lot to me.’
Piper Turner (10) and Alice Green (11) from Hungerford Primary School read a poem they wrote for the Hungerford ceremony, called ‘A cycle of trees.’ The children from their school also created a wonderful banner, which was proudly on display.
Another moving poem was written and read by a Lockdown Woods member, Blake Ludwig, called ‘Poem for our remembrance’, which can be read in full below.
Two people from the audience talked about their personal dedications of trees in Goldwell Park. Carol Langford came with her family and talked movingly about her late husband Malcolm, who died last year. Chris Whitehead talked about his father John, whose ashes his family had scattered on his grandmother’s grave, but who had no permanent resting place ‘no marked place in the world’. Chris said ‘we dedicated a whitebeam to him in a private ceremony of our own devising, and there it is!’.
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