A woman planting a tree in the Lockdown Woods near Newbury

Lockdown Woods commemorate the positives of pandemic year

Sovereign Housing Association joined teams of people from Friends of the Earth Newbury, Ground Control and the MP for Newbury, Laura Farris and her family, to plant 200 saplings in a new ‘Lockdown Wood’ in the heart of Newbury on Friday 11 December and Saturday 12 December.

The tree-planting project – started in response to West Berkshire Council’s draft Environment Strategy – aims to involve the local community in tackling the climate crisis, as well as increasing natural beauty and biodiversity in the district. Three ‘Lockdown Woods’ planted in the district over this winter will be dedicated as memorial woods to the losses suffered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Representatives from Sovereign - a housing association with more than 6,000 homes in the Newbury area – came along with members of their grounds maintenance team Ground Control to plant the trees, as well as providing covid-safe equipment including gloves and spades.

The saplings or ‘whips’ as they are known were provided by The Woodland Trust and were planted on land belonging to West Berkshire Council.

Dr Susan Millington, leading the Lockdown Woods group, said ‘Our Lockdown Woods are special because they will be memorial woods for all the losses we have suffered during the pandemic.  Next year we will be inviting local people to plant saplings here which they have grown and tended in their gardens during the lockdowns.

“We plan that people will be able to dedicate a tree to someone special to them, maybe a key worker or someone who has been seriously affected by this pandemic, or someone who has died from Covid-19. Dedication ceremonies will be held at each of our woods in the autumn next year when we are able to congregate again.

“The wooded area in Goldwell Park will commemorate this hugely difficult period of disruption and sacrifice, and be a place of quiet and beauty into the far future, for people to visit and remember loved ones lost to the pandemic.

“Over this winter we’ll be planting over 1,800 saplings throughout the district, in the first year of an ongoing project to involve the local community in caring for each other and for our world.”

Rachel Peters, Community Development Officer for Sovereign, said: “Increasing green spaces in the places where our residents live, so they can enjoy being outside with nature is important to us as an organisation, as is forming close relationships with those who have homes in our communities.

“Although the pandemic has brought many hardships, something that many people have been able to do is spend more time outside, perhaps with their children or friends, which is great both for physical and mental health. We’re keen to continue to support this project, and to see others like it roll out across our geography.”

Those keen to support the project can do so by contacting the group via its Facebook page or by donating via The Good Exchange .