New trees for memorial woodland

Memorial woodland

The next phase in creating a 100-acre memorial woodland near Alveston in Bristol will take shape during the winter months.

Some 122 trees are due to be planted in the next few months in areas of Bristol Memorial Woodlands where burials and ash interments have taken place over the last year.

Bristol Memorial Woodlands is being created as a place that future generations will be able to visit a mainly native British woodland where their ancestors rest. A charitable Trust has been set up to manage the woodlands into the future. They are open daily for the public to enjoy for walks and remembrance.

All the trees to be added are being grown by two specialist tree nurseries, local to the woodlands, at Rockhampton, Gloucestershire. They will be lifted and transported to the woodlands, and into the care of the horticulture team, when the leaves have all dropped and the trees have entered their dormant phase for the winter. This is usually around early December.

Freya Widdicombe, who is leading the Bristol Memorial Woodlands planting team, said: “When we receive the trees we ‘heel them in’ – temporarily plant them in the yard in some old bath tubs that we have filled with soil. We have found over the years that this is the best way to keep the trees safe from deer and other wildlife that we have here while they wait to be planted.

The woodland's mainly native trees

“Over the winter months they will be carefully planted in their final positions in accordance with the map that the office team prepare, and when soil conditions allow. I can plant about nine trees in a day and there is one central tree for every four plots in the new burial ground, which means there will be 5m in between each tree in the future woodland, which is a broader spacing than was used in those areas of the site first converted to cemetery, starting in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“We try to plant the species in groups in areas that suit them best; willows at the bottom of the hill and fruit trees grouped together for pollination. It’s not always possible to ensure the survival of a tree after it’s planted. We have a very heavy clay soil here that gets very waterlogged during the winter in places and also, without the shelter of leaves on the trees, the top of the new burial field is a very exposed site. Some of the trees just don’t make it against these difficult conditions.

“The planting is always carefully managed around the weather during the winter as we cannot plant into waterlogged or frozen soil.”

The founding principle of Memorial Woodlands is to create new nature reserve areas, increasing the diversity of fauna and flora. The nature reserve is totally funded through the high-quality funeral services held there.

Planting a commemorative tree is an ancient tradition and is a symbol of continued life, strength and family connections.

The more mature parts of the woodland were established twenty five years ago, with each phase adding to the planned eventual 100-acre woodland.

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