New nature reserves could be Covid memorial woodlands

Memorial woodlands and an online book of residents’ recollections are two of the ways the coronavirus pandemic will be marked in Staffordshire.

The entrance to Westbridge Park in Stone. Photo: Google
The entrance to Westbridge Park in Stone. Photo: Google

Areas of dedication and reflection, which would include seating, are also being considered for Stafford’s Market Square, Stone High Street and the borough council’s Local Nature Reserves.

Stafford Borough Council set up a working group earlier this year to consider ways to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives and residents who have been affected by Covid-19 in other ways.

On Tuesday the group’s proposals were presented to councillors at their full meeting.

The new Local Nature Reserve at Fairway in Stafford and Stone’s Westbridge Park have been earmarked for memorial woodlands. And residents will be encouraged to submit their memories of the pandemic for inclusion in an online book to be added to the council’s website.

Councillor Marnie Phillips, who chaired the cross-party Covid Memorial Working Group, told the meeting: “We have all been impacted by Covid in many different ways and the way we have dealt with the changes that Covid brought to our lives has been very personal.

“We have experienced the passing of loved ones without the opportunity to celebrate their lives. We have missed the births and weddings of those closest to us and been unable to support those we have always helped, because of restrictions and distance. Work was different, schooling different, shopping different and the kindness and support of acquaintances and strangers became paramount to some residents to keep them safe during the lockdown.

“Thankfully we are through the worst now, but are still left with those mixed emotional memories. Our lives may have returned to more normal rhythms but for some the losses and experiences will remain painful for days and years to come.

“We wanted to put forward proposals that could encompass everyone – all experiences and all types of memories – to find ways to celebrate the good and allow us to reflect on our personal experiences and the lives of those we’ve lost.

“We wanted to provide visual and physical proposals that will show our support for the individual experiences of residents and to give hope for the future. The physical spaces we have proposed can serve as spaces for personal grief, peace and reflection, calm quiet contemplation and also be a beautiful visual reminder honouring those lost, for generations to come.

“A memorial can also be a repository of memories encompassing all experiences and all age groups. We have represented this by an online book of memories and we hope that residents will upload or send in their own Covid stories and memories.

“Life during the pandemic has seen us experiencing the sombre and funny. All these stories are important to share, record and preserve for now and in the years to come.”

The proposals received unanimous support from council members.

Councillor Aidan Godfrey said: “It is an excellent working group and it has worked hard. Hopefully the fruits of its labours will be appreciated for years to come.

“It is a terrible situation we found ourselves in and hopefully there will be some light at the end of the tunnel. We need to put people’s memories in a book so people can see what we lived through here and now.”

Councillor Jill Hood said that residents’ positive memories of the pandemic could be put forward for the online book as well as their more poignant reflections.

“I know it has been a very sad and testing time but we are looking forward to some of the stories or residents are going to tell us that aren’t about the deaths of colleagues or family but are about humour”, she added.

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