Tree memorials will stand the test of time

Volunteers dig into tree planting in Alnwick. Their efforts will create a long-lasting feature for the town. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Volunteers dig into tree planting in Alnwick. Their efforts will create a long-lasting feature for the town. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

There’s no better way to mark a significant event, personal or otherwise, than planting a tree.

Given a reasonable start in life and a little consideration thereafter, it will stand the test of time.

Examples are Collingwood oaks in the Cheviots, the grove of horse chestnuts along the A1 approaching Morpeth, and individual specimens in woodland estates throughout our county.

They represent a special link with the past.

The rapidly approaching National Plant A Tree Week, from November 25 to December 3, presents an opportunity to add another link to that historic chain.

Were he still alive, Admiral Lord Collingwood would be well pleased with oak trees in the Cheviot hills that bear his name. Each time our walking group has passed by the western bank of the College Valley near Hethpool, where they grow, our leader Jim Givens has reminded us of their provenance.

After victory at Trafalgar in 1805 Collingwood loved walking the hills with his dog and a pocketful of acorns, planting for posterity and future ‘heart of oak’ ships.

Following his death in 1810 his widow organised the planting of 200 English oaks (Quercus rober), and what a fitting living memorial they make.

The Royal Record, a book listing tree-planting and other activities in celebration of King George VI’s coronation in 1936, relates to numerous events in our area.

Some 152 horse chestnuts were planted along the A1 near Tritlington School by a representative of each Women’s Institute in the county. Morpeth and 1st Pegswood Girl Guides provided six scarlet oaks (Quercus coccinea) for planting in Carlisle Park. Cambo churchyard saw 60 Lawsons cypress introduced to form a hedge between the east and south east gates, each presented by a member of the congregation.

And Belsay was awash with planting, two-and-a-half acres filled with English Oak and 26 poplar for the village playing field.

Fast-forward to 1969 and a tree planted at the entrance to the Group Consulting Rooms, Infirmary Drive, Alnwick. Hundreds of people still pass it daily, but how many realise the significance?

It was planted as a seedling by a gardening friend and local GP, the late Dr John Johnson, to celebrate the new surgery three years after it opened. John travelled to the Greek island of Cos, home of Hippocrates, to bring a seedling of the famous Hypocratic Plane Tree (Platanus orientalis) home to Alnwick.

Now, 48 years on, is it not time to start thinking of a modest commemorative plaque?