A new woodland is being created at the National Memorial Arboretum to remember those who have died during the coronavirus pandemic.

National Memorial Arboretum

The 25-acre extension to the 150-acre woodland has been launched to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the centre of remembrance.

Philippa Rawlinson, managing director of the arboretum, said the plans would create a new living memorial.

“We have been inundated with requests to create a new remembrance space where people can reconnect and reflect on the collective sacrifices we have made as a country, during what have been some of the darkest days since the end of the Second World War.

“These ambitious plans to create a living memorial to all who have lost their lives as a result of the pandemic is a key part of our vision as we continue to grow as the nation’s year-round centre of remembrance, freely open to all.” 

Philippa Rawlinson, National Memorial Arboretum

A 980-year lease on a peppercorn rent has been signed with quarry operator Tarmac for a 25-acre plot of former workings adjacent to the arboretum.

Plans are now being developed to transform the existing scrubland.

“This new woodland will heal the landscape as we heal as a nation in the wake of the pandemic.

“This new commemorative space, in the heart of the country, will be the logical place for any national government-sponsored tribute honouring the contribution of the incredible NHS heroes and other key workers who have valiantly served our communities.

“We strongly believe that the design of such a memorial should be inspirational, capturing the incredible community spirit that has carried us through challenging times.

“A simple bronze sculpture will never do justice to a rainbow.”

Philippa Rawlinson, National Memorial Arboretum

“Growing the future together”

Groundworks for the new memorial woodland are planned to begin in early 2022, ahead of a habitat creation and tree planting effort supported by the National Forest Company. It is hoped that public access to the woodland will begin in 2023.

John Everitt, chief executive of the National Forest Company, said:

“Covid-19 has made us all take stock, reflect on what we hold dear, and be inspired to create something better.

“The National Forest embodies this spirit of regeneration and, through these plans for a new memorial woodland, demonstrates how we are literally growing the future together, breathing new life and hope into the nation’s recovery.”

John Everitt, National Forest Company

A grove of trees representing the diversity of religion across the Commonwealth will form part of the new woodland.

In Autumn 2021, trees symbolising faiths and different denominations will be blessed by religious leaders during a Service of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in memory of those who have died in the pandemic.

The trees blessed during the service will be among the first planted in the woodland, and the resulting grove will complement a new inclusive space for quiet contemplation and prayer.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, said:

“For over a thousand years, Westminster Abbey has been a place in which the nation has acknowledged both the seriousness of death and bereavement whilst proclaiming a faith and hope that will not be defeated.

“The impact of this pandemic has changed us all. We are a people who have encountered deep sorrow and faced up to isolation. We have witnessed acts of selfless courage and admired resilience and generosity of spirit.

“In a service in the Abbey, and in a memorial that will endure for generations, we have the opportunity to give expression to what has happened to us and what we hope for.”

The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster
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