'Lockdown Wood' dedication a poignant moment for Newbury
There was a large turnout in Goldwell Park, Newbury, on Saturday for the dedication of specially-planted Lockdown Woods to those lost in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Three Lockdown Woods have been planted in West Berkshire, and they are intended to provide spaces for remembrance and reflection.
They are a community effort, with numerous bodies – including local councils, the district branch of Friends of the Earth and other organisations – supporting the initiative.
The event on Saturday drew in more than 70 people, with local a cappella group Sing the World providing live music on the day.
Children from Hungerford Primary School read a poem written for the occasion, and people directly impacted by Covid-19 spoke of their experiences.
Among these was Carole Langford, who lost her husband Malcolm to coronavirus last October, and Chris Whitehead, who lost his father, John.
Both of the deceased are memorialised by trees in the wood formally dedicated on Saturday.
Dr Henry Craven, an ICU doctor at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, offered an account of working on the frontline during the pandemic's first wave.
He showed onlookers the respirator he was expected to wear during lockdown's first week, and spoke of his connection to the Newbury area, having grown up locally.
Among the organisers of the Lockdown Woods project is Newbury Friends of the Earth member Dr Susan Millington, who spoke at the event.
In her address, Dr Millington 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."
A specially-written poem was also read aloud by Blake Ludwig, a member of the Lockdown Woods organising group.
West Berkshire Council vice-chairman Rick Jones (Con, Tilehurst and Purley) said: "When Newbury Friends of the Earth started this project and approached local councils to plant trees, we [the council] 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 Woods will provide a place of peace, comfort and remembrance for those who have been affected by the pandemic."
In his speech, Newbury mayor Billy Drummond paid tribute to all those who had helped make the Lockdown Wood project possible.
He said: "Lockdown Wood is a special place to lots of people here this morning, and I would like to thank everyone involved in the planting of many young trees to help the environment of Newbury, in which we all live.
"Fortunately, I do not know anyone who has suffered or died from the Covid-19 pandemic, although it has brought difficult times, with many painful losses, and I count my blessings every day.
"I would like to give thanks to James Heasman, councillor Martha Vickers and Newbury Town Council for all their help in getting Lockdown Wood under way.
"I would like to also thank Greenham Parish Council for their financial help and I am also pleased to learn that there will also be a Lockdown Wood on Stroud Green."
Councillors Drummond and Jones rounded off the event by unveiling a commemorative plaque and the designated 'master of ceremonies' Shaun Leahy thanked West Berkshire Council and Newbury Town Council, as well as all those present for attending.