On Saturday night, thieves uprooted around 40 recently planted memorial trees at the Coventry Peace Orchard and left them in neat bundles, presumably for later collection.
The quick actions of local people and the Council, however, thwarted their plans.
A total of 240 apple trees of different species have recently been planted at the Peace Orchard in Coundon Hall Park, mainly by local schoolchildren. Accompanied by an online educational resource, the Peace Orchard will be a source of environmental and heritage information for schools and local communities. Some of the trees will be available for Coventry people to ‘adopt’ as a memorial to loved ones and the Orchard will also help with 2019 commemorations for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
The uprooted trees were spotted in bundles by an early morning dog walker, who posted on the We Love Coundon Facebook site, asking if the Council’s out of hours team could rescue the trees before they were removed by the thieves. The post was read by two local councillors and by staff at Coombe Park, who arranged for the Street Pride Team to collect the trees before they were taken by the thieves. Most have now been recovered and safely stored.
Thanks to the quick thinking of residents and local agencies, most of the trees will be re-planted at a community planting session on Tuesday 20 March at 1pm-3pm Local people and schools are invited to join the Park Ranger Team for the last planting session of the season.
Councillor Kamran Caan, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Sport, said: “I am extremely disappointed that the memorial trees have been uprooted in Coundon Park.
“Thanks to the fast action of our community and Park Rangers, almost all of the trees were recovered before they were stolen. The trees that are not damaged will be re-planted in the park as soon as possible.”
The charity behind the project, Normandy Day UK, would like to thank all those who played a part in thwarting the attempt to steal the trees.
Dennis Davison, D-Day veteran and charity founder, said: “I’m so grateful for people’s intervention at just the right moment. We recently planted an apple tree sourced from a nursery in Normandy and installed a memorial plaque in memory of my younger brother, Philip, who died last November and was also a D-Day veteran. It would have been very upsetting if this had been damaged or stolen. Thankfully, it wasn’t.”
The site is located just off Tamworth Road near the junction with Long Lane. The project is funded by Postcode Local Trust and Big Lottery, who have each awarded nearly £10,000. The Tree Council has awarded £500 and the Woodland Trust has donated wild hedge species. Coventry City Council’s Park Rangers are providing specialist supervision and materials.
Specialist advice is being provided by Tom Adams, an Orchardist who runs an apple tree nursery in Oswestry. The peace education resource is being created by Balbir Sohal Associates and project management provided by AJD Regeneration.
The Peace Orchard is the dream of Coventry D-Day veteran, 95 year-old Dennis Davison (BME, Legion D’Honor), below. Dennis founded the Coventry-based Normandy Day UK peace education charity, which is behind the project.
A second Community Information Evening to launch the heritage resource will be held at Cardinal Newman School in mid-May.