23 trees to be planted across Greenwich borough as Covid-19 memorials

Charlton House
Charlton House, pictured in the first week of the lockdown, could host a tree

Greenwich Council plans to plant 23 trees around the borough as a memorial to those who have died in the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year a public consultation found that a majority of respondents preferred to have a memorial garden built or trees planted as a tribute to lost loved ones. Nearly half said they would like to see a fountain of remembrance.

“Consideration has been given to creating a peace/memorial garden and fountain which were identified as residents’ first and third preferred options,” council officers say in a report. “However, further deliberation is needed for these options given the level of investment required and the length of time to implement.”

Instead, the council’s cabinet will be asked on Wednesday to approve plans to plant trees in each of the 23 new wards the borough will be divided into next year, with a memorial bench close by.

Proposed locations include Charlton House, Cutty Sark Gardens, Horn Park and Plumstead Common.

The £45,000 plan is “considered to be deliverable and accessible to ward residents and in situ by the second anniversary of the first lockdown”, officers say.

General Gordon Square, Woolwich
General Gordon Square in Woolwich is one of the open spaces that could get a memorial

According to the UK Health Security Agency, 549 people have died from coronavirus in Greenwich borough since the pandemic began last year – 19 people out of every 10,000 residents.

At least 34,484 people – nearly 12 per cent of the population – have tested positive for the virus.

The council plans to plant handkerchief trees – Davidia involucrata – described as “a wonderful, ornamental deciduous tree with heart shaped foliage that is red-purple and has a spicy fragrance”.

Its appearance changes during the year. Every May, “large white floral bracts emerge that hang like pinched handkerchiefs from its branches. In late summer, small pear-shaped fruits will emerge. In autumn, just before the leaves fall, they will change from light green to yellow-orange.”

The borough is currently divided into 17 wards, but this will change to 23 from next spring when new councillors are elected.

In three new wards – Greenwich Peninsula, Thamesmead Moorings and Thamesmead West – there is no suitable council-owned land and the town hall will look to speak to other landowners.

Some locations in other new wards may not be as quiet and peaceful as council officers may hope. Blackheath Westcombe’s suggested location is Batley Park – the green space at the centre of the Royal Standard – while in Kidbrooke ward councillors propose King George’s Field, an open space between Greenwich Cemetery and the South Circular Road.

Councillors on the cabinet are set to approve the plan on Wednesday, with the trees and benches due to be in place by March 22 next year.

In May, Lewisham Council planted a single tree as a memorial at St Mary’s Hospital, next to Lewisham Hospital; Bexley is to install a commemorative garden at Old Farm Park in Sidcup, which has been partially redeveloped for housing. A garden of 33 blossom trees at the Olympic Park forms the London-wide memorial.

Oxleas Meadow
Oxleas Meadow is another possible location

The full list of proposed locations (see a map of new wards):

Bostall Gardens, Bostall Heath or Abbey Wood Park (Abbey Wood); Batley Park, Royal Standard (Blackheath Westcombe); Hornfair Park (Charlton Hornfair); Charlton Park or House Grounds or Maryon Park (Charlton Village and Riverside); East Greenwich Pleasaunce (East Greenwich); Well Hall Pleasaunce (Eltham Page); Oxleas Wood or Oxleas Meadow (Eltham Park and Progress); Eltham Park South or Avery Hill Park (Eltham Town and Avery Hill); Charlotte Turner Gardens, Deptford (Greenwich Creekside); Cutty Sark Gardens or Blackheath bowling green (Greenwich Park); King George’s Field, Well Hall Road (Kidbrooke Park); Sutcliffe Park (Kidbrooke Village and Sutcliffe); Horn Park or Queenscroft Park (Middle Park and Horn Park); Fairy Hill Park or Southwood Park (Mottingham, Coldharbour and New Eltham); Plumstead Gardens (Plumstead and Glyndon); Plumstead Common, Rockliffe Gardens or Shrewsbury Park (Plumstead Common); Eaglesfield Park, Shrewsbury Park or Oxleas Wood (Shooters Hill); General Gordon Square (Woolwich Arsenal); Academy Road open space, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich Common Estate or Garrison Church (Woolwich Common); St Mary’s Gardens (Woolwich Dockyard). No site yet for Greenwich Peninsula, Thamesmead Moorings or Thamesmead West.

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