'The woods will be there forever for people to reflect': The expanding tree planting project that remembers those lost to Covid-19
It all started when one Wrea Green family planted their first tree in a four-acre field opposite their home almost a year ago.
And now, they have given up 65 acres of land for families to plant a heartfelt tree to remember somebody they had lost to Covid and are even considering introducing parking, a tree nursery and an observatory for visitors.
From a barely used field that homed sheep just a year ago, the land is now bursting with memories and forms a special place of reflection for those who have lost loved ones after the family bought the land with their own money.
The Bradshaw family first began reaching out to bereaved people who had not been able to have a proper funeral during the pandemic by offering them the chance to plant a tree in their memory, last May at the field on Richmond Avenue.
And 10 months on, they have planted 1,000 trees and are continuing to encourage families to get in touch to plant theirs in a garden that is adorned with flowers, plaques and memorial benches.
Daughter Ashley Bradshaw said: "It was first mentioned when we were having a Sunday dinner together, and my dad came up with the idea and just posted it on Facebook and it all took off from there.
"We all helped out and had local volunteers and friends on board too. It started out with our first tree being planted and has changed quite significantly in the past 10 months.
"We found out pretty quickly that a lot of people were interested and loved the idea because so many people couldn't visit loved ones in hospitals or even visit funerals at the start of the pandemic.
"For us, making this outdoor space into a memorial woods that will always be there for people to visit and remember loved ones was important and was one of the only things people could do with their time."
Grandma Ivy, dad Andy, mum Angie, their children Ashley and Aaron, and their partners Phil and Amy all moved in together at the start of the Coronavirus outbreak to support each other last year and said the project was a 'family effort'.
Their first order was for 70 trees, and by the end of the first weekend, they had all been allocated to families who had lost a loved one to the Covid-19 virus.
Since then, the family have planted 1,000 trees and have a waiting list of 'several hundred people' who are wanting the same opportunity to remember people close to them who they lost.
And in August, the Bishop of Lancaster performed a blessing at the woods.
Ashley said: "When we first began planting the trees, it was during summer, which is known as the worst time for trees to grow because of how much water they need. We managed to get together an amazing team of 15 volunteers from the local village who came and watered the trees every single day.
"We then planted a few hundred smaller trees and held regular planting sessions with families. It was an unusual experience for many people who were trying to sum up the person they had lost in a tree - it's an odd concept.
"My mum and I would then meet everyone who was being allocated a tree and find out who it was for and help them find the right tree for them. It was really special to be a part of and we heard so many amazing stories about those they had lost.
"We never realised before how peaceful and special the land there is and we are so happy we have been able to put it to such amazing use. Everyone that visits arrives in such different states of mind, it is emotional and raw for many.
"Others come in different stages of grief but still leave with a smile on their faces. It is a place of nature where people can experience a sense of calm and really reflect on the past year.
"My parents want us to make use of the 80 acres of land there, by building a tree nursery and an observatory so this can be there for people in the years to come.
"We are all so proud to have been a part of this and help so many people who have had a really tough time. It'll now be there forever to give people a space to grieve and reflect."
They currently have 600 more requests for trees to be planted in the field and have recently bought memorial benches with money donated to them for the project.
Volunteers interested in getting involved in maintaining the gardens or families who wish to have a tree planted in memory of a loved one can email the family here.
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