Planting a lasting tribute to Covid heroes and victims


Our town’s response to the pandemic is something we can all be proud of.  Our NHS staff, teachers, key workers and volunteers have put in so much effort and helped so many.  It’s right that Cheltenham remembers this – so much compassion deserves a lasting legacy.

Another lasting result needs to be a closer connection between people and nature.  I speak to so many people who want us to emerge from the crisis as better custodians of our natural world, helping to fight the climate and biodiversity emergency.

That’s why I’m so pleased that we are doing something in Cheltenham that ties these two issues together.  I’ll be there with our hardworking council Parks Team who are planting 500 trees at Springfield Park.  I’m told they will be small at first, but in time they will grow to a woodland in lasting memorial and tribute to the past year.  Later in the year, we’ll be planting larger specimens in a town centre location too.  A commemorative plaque will be installed in an appropriate place, probably in Sandford Park.

The planting at Springfield Park is happening thanks to the good people at the Forestry Commission, which is supplying around 1,000 trees for the Cheltenham Tree Challenge this year.  That means we’ll be getting further trees at Manor Farm in Up Hatherley and the Cirencester Road greenspace in Charlton Kings too.

The variety of small trees include Beech, Bird Cherry, Oak, Hawthorn, Whitebeam, Rowan, Blackthorn, Hornbeam, Hazel, Crab Apple and Scots Pine.  These are all native to the British Isles and should be interesting to look at. They will maximise the benefits for clean air and are beneficial to wildlife and insects.  This comes on the back of a really successful fruit tree planting at the much-improved Winston Churchill Memorial Gardens, supported by the excellent Park Friends group and Gloucestershire Orchard Trust.

This has been a really tough year, but we can look to the future with positivity thanks to these sorts of projects.  Our new trees will help us remember what we’ve lost and the contributions of so many, while reminding us of our connection with nature too.  As we all enjoy these trees in future, I hope we’ll remember to thank them for what they’re doing and thank each other for all that we’ve done.

- Councillor Max Wilkinson, cabinet member for climate and communities.


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