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National Memorial Arboretum dedicates new ‘Trees of Life’ glade to honour service and sacrifice

In the week of the third anniversary of the first UK lockdown, a new ‘Trees of Life’ glade was dedicated at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, within the National Forest. The ‘Trees of Life’ glade is a living tribute to those who served our country throughout the pandemic, and to remember all those who died as a result of COVID-19 in the UK.

“It may already be three years since the pandemic first turned our lives upside down, but for many key workers who served, or those who lost loved ones, the memories of that time and the feelings of loss will never go away,” explains Philippa Rawlinson, Director of the Arboretum. “As the Nation’s year-round place to remember, we were inundated with requests for us to create somewhere permanent to commemorate the incredible service and sacrifice of key workers during the pandemic, but also somewhere people could go at any time to remember those who had tragically lost their lives.”

At the heart of the ‘Trees of Life’ glade is a stately Spaeth Alder tree, set within a beautiful seating area that invites visitors to pause, take a moment and reflect. The trees in the glade, created in partnership between the National Memorial Arboretum and the National Forest Company, were blessed by representatives of Diverse Communities of Faith at Westminster Abbey during a special Service of Remembrance in October 2022.

“We know that during the different lockdowns people really appreciated outdoor spaces and environments, and the Arboretum was a place of peace and tranquillity for people living close by at the time,” continues Philippa. “The new ‘Trees of Life’ glade offers a place for people to come together to remember and honour the service and sacrifice of their loved ones, to reflect on an extremely difficult time in our Nation’s recent history and to support the process of healing.”

During the dedication event, which was attended by members of the public, volunteers and key workers, the Arboretum’s newly appointed ‘poet-in-residence’ Dan Simpson shared his specially commissioned poem ‘Blessed Alder’, inspired by the Spaeth Alder tree at the heart of the ‘Trees of Life’ glade.

“From the moment I first stepped foot into the Arboretum, I felt how special and unique the site is. It spoke to me of memory and reverence, with a voice that is alive to the present,” commented Dan. “The poem I wrote for the dedication of the ‘Trees of Life’ glade today is the first in a series of poems, workshops and activities that I will be creating over the next 12 months, in service to the visitors, dedicated volunteers, passionate staff and to the Arboretum itself.”

The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster, led the blessing of the new ‘Trees of Life’ glade as he revisited the trees now in their permanent home. Following the dedication, members of the public were invited to lay tributes of spring flowers within the glade.

“The trees in the glade are a symbol of regeneration and testimony to the power of trees to heal a landscape, lives and livelihoods,” said John Everitt, Chief Executive of the National Forest Company. “They will long outlive us all; their presence offers solace in our sadness and connects us to future generations.”

“We all have a greater appreciation for togetherness after the isolation so many of us experienced during the pandemic,” comments Carol Pemberton MBE, the founder and music director of Black Voices, the female a cappella quintet that opened and closed the dedication event. “Black Voices were truly honoured to perform during this dedication at the National Memorial Arboretum. From the Trees of Life Glade, new communities will grow as people come together to remember those they lost.”

For more information visit the National Memorial Arboretum’s website.

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