As announced by Salmaan Nasser this week the initial consultation period for the Forest of Memories has ended and we are moving into the next stage. That next stage is one where we will bring the collective vision for the Forest of Memories into reality.
As we start this new exciting stage of the Forests development, we wanted to give our supporters a full update on what the Forest plans are today after the two-month consultation period has come to an end. As always, we are eager to hear any feedback (good or bad) on the plans from everyone. Your views are important to us. They have guided us so far, and we hope they will continue to guide us along with the remainder of our shared journey towards creating the Forest of Memories.
So, let’s start with ‘why a Forest of Memories’?
We are growing a Forest of Memories because of the 65,000 loved ones that have been lost because of Covid-19 this year.
According to the Office of National Statistics, 65,000 people have died in the UK this summer in excess of deaths that would be expected. These deaths are a result of either directly from being infected by the virus, and also because of the impact of lock-down measures on our society.
A forest is a living, breathing thing that symbolically represents new life and fresh air and (we are told by you) is a much more fitting memorial than a cold stone monument. A forest will be a lasting tribute that also helps fight climate change, the other great challenge of our time.
The Forest of Memories will be planted in remembrance of all the loved ones lost. But, it will also be in acknowledgement of the ordinary people, like you, who continue to come together to overcome adversity and personal challenges throughout the pandemic that we are still living through. Challenges of loneliness, mental health, and much more were all existing (and sometimes hidden) issues, but these (and many more) have all been highlighted by the pandemic and lock-down measures.
We believe that by growing a Forest of Memories we can create a forest of remembrance that will also support people in the future. By doing so, we hope that we can create whatever positive outcomes we can from all of our personal struggles and losses in these tragic times.
Forest of memories ‘themes’ to guide us
The views given during the consultation period have been condensed into some key themes that will guide the creation of the Forest of Memories.
The core theme for the Forest of Memories will, of course, be one of remembrance. This is the primary reason for the forest to exist. To aid remembrance, the forest will be designed as a tranquil place for peace and reflection.
A forest is something that will absorb CO2 and help fight climate change. Additionally, our supporters have stressed that the Forest of Memories should be designed to create and enhance wildlife habitat and biodiversity, be managed sustainably, and aim to generate any energy used to run it from renewable sources.
Accessibility for everyone will be at the heart of the Forest design from the beginning. This means:
- There can be no entrance fees
- All pathways must be designed to be accessible to wheelchair users
- The ability to access information, and interact with memorial areas, should be made accessible to all groups e.g. hearing or vision impaired, access needs of all ages considered.
“If we do not learn from history, we are condemned to repeat it”
The Forest should also become a place that will benefit future generations in more ways than planting trees to help fight climate change.
Firstly, the design of the Forest should help all visitors, including children, understand (in an age-appropriate manner) what people went through during this pandemic. That includes being able to access the stories of the loved ones who we lost, but also understand the other societal issues highlighted during the pandemic to learn from these. Equally, the educational element should also encompass issues such as biodiversity, climate change, and other issues naturally associated with a Forest environment.
We live in a digital society and in 2020 it is appropriate that we consider ways of using digital technology to achieve the core themes of the Forest of Memories. This can challenge the traditional perception of a Forest, but if done correctly it will enhance the visitor experience.
Over 90% of people were in favour of using technology in new ways in the Forest of Memories, but we should also recognise that a few were concerned about how it would operate and (understandably) wanted the technology to be unobtrusive.
There is a clear desire to use technology to bring peoples memories of loved ones lost to visitors of the Forest through a ‘Memory-Trees’ concept. But, technology (used correctly) can also help with accessibility for different groups, and provide educational benefits. These elements are core themes people would like to see in The Forest. We will come back on this subject in more detail in later blogs.
What facilities will be in the forest?
65,000 trees planted, one for every life lost in the UK because of Covid-19, is a core goal. These trees will also be able to be dedicated as ‘Memory-Trees’ to specific loved ones lost. We will give more details about that soon.
Other things people wanted as priorities in the forest were:
- Areas that encourage biodiversity
- Accessible walkways for mobility vehicles and wheelchairs
- A central Garden of Remembrance
- ‘Groves of reflection’ containing, for example, wood-carvings and other appropriate installations highlighting specific issues confronted during the pandemic by ordinary people e.g. mental health, cancer etc.
- Educational facilities for visiting groups of children.
- General amenities for visitors e.g. toilet facilities, café, picnic areas etc.
- Renewable energy source(s) for power consumption.
Where will the Forest be?
The core purpose of the Forest of Memories is to be a special place of remembrance to visit for the bereaved. One of the key things learnt during the consultation period was that people felt that the Forest would only be able to serve that purpose if it were geographically close to a person who was bereaved and wished to dedicate a tree in their loved one’s name.
The conclusion was therefore that this means there will need to be more than one Forest of Memories. There might still be a place for a single ‘National’ Memorial Forest, but there will also need to be a number (maybe smaller forests) in local areas e.g. one in the South, the North, Midlands, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland etc. We’ve therefore gone back to the drawing board on location and have extended our thinking on land search accordingly to meet these goals.
When will The Forest be planted?
Much of this will depend on what happens with the search for land and fundraising in the next couple of months. However, the plan is to start planting by Autumn 2021 at the latest, sooner if at all possible.
Who will be involved in creating The Forest?
The Forest of Memories will require partnerships with different organisations to make it work. We are actively pursuing these partnerships now, but if you can help (or know someone who could) then please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Partners will be required for the following (we cannot create this forest by ourselves):
- Land supply
- Forest design, forest planting, habitat creation, and forest management
- Technology partners to create the interactive technology aspects for the forest
- Support from businesses to sponsor and/or support the creation of Forests
- Political support from local authorities or MP’s – whoever can help with increase support or address local planning issues etc.
- Support from all our supporters to spread the word far and wide! And, maybe of course even come to plant the trees
So, now we are moving into a critical phase to make the forest a reality. This next stage will be about getting the required partners in place and ensuring that we increase the number of people who know about (and support) the creation of the Forest of Memories.
The continued support from all our supporters is so important in the next few months. So, if you want to see the Forest of Memories made a reality – keep following us, encourage others to follow us, and spread the word to anyone who could be a potential partner for us to work with. A big thank you in advance for any help you can give by doing that.
Please leave your comments in the comments section below. We really want to hear from you.