Words & pics by Ed King
Planting began today for the Covid-19 Memorial Woodland in Bleak Hill Park, marking the physical beginning of a project that was first proposed by Short Heath Fields Trusts (SHFT) back in March 2021.
Acting as a natural epitaph for those who lost their lives to Covid-19, the Memorial Woodland on Bleak Hill Park will feature over 400 trees – donated by the Woodland Trust, as part of their ‘free trees’ initiative to support local community groups and encourage more urban tree planting.
Short Heath Fields Trust wanted to create a living, breathing monument for those being remembered, attaching the following strapline to the Memorial Woodland: ‘Time to grieve in place to breathe.’
Estelle Murphy from Short Heath Field Trust, who is also works in palliative and end of life care, explained: “Working with our local community, we realised there are people who have lost loved ones, and lost time with their loved ones, and we wanted to give them somewhere they could come and remember the good things.
“We’ve got some ornamental cherry trees coming that will sit behind them, and we’re planting a flowerbed at the front as a focal point. People will be able to sit here in the sun and look down the full length of Bleak Hill Park.
“We’ve also got some fruit trees coming from a nursery in Solihull. There is a large bat population on Bleak Hill Park and Short Heath Playing Fields, so we want the fruit trees to also encourage the insects for the bats to feed off.
“Especially now we’re coming out of Covid restrictions, we’ve all enjoyed these green spaces and now it’s time we give a bit back.”
Members of the Short Heath Fields Trust, who have organised the Covid-19 Memorial Woodland with help from the wider community, were out on Bleak Hill Park 10am this morning – planting the 420 saplings that will define the boundary of the commemorative woodland.
Philomena Toney, who lives on Short Heath Road and is part of local litter pickers the Short Heath Wombles, told Erdington Local:
“I’m here planting trees for this good cause, for a place where we can come along, sit down, and think of our loved ones. We’re really doing it for the people who have died or those who lost loved ones over Covid, it’s important to remember them.
Originally presented to Birmingham City Council in March 2021, plans for the Covid-19 Memorial Woodland on Bleak Hill Park were initially green lit by the Local Authority – but organisers ran into difficulties gaining access to the park or securing the initially promised support from the city.
The sudden deaths of both Cllr Penny Holbrook and Jack Dromey MP, who had been working with Short Heath Fields Trust to progress the project, then put the involvement of the wider City Council on permanent hold.
Funding was eventually secured from the National Lottery to support the project, with the Woodland Trust stepping in to supply the young trees – as part of their ‘Free Trees for Schools and Communities’ initiative.
Visiting Bleak Hill Park to help get the trees in the ground for the Covid-19 Memorial Woodland, Dan Pike, Marketing Manager for the Woodland Trust, told Erdington Local:
“We have an initiative where we want to give everyone in the UK the opportunity to plant at least one tree. Things like today are really important, because it’s trees in urban settings.
“You wouldn’t necessarily think about how important trees are if you live in a city, but things like this (Covid-19 Memorial Woodland) help with the climate, helps encourage nature, and it brings communities together and gives groups like this (SHFT) the chance to do something really special.”
For more on Short Heath Fields Trust visit www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com
For more on the Woodland Trust visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk