Councillors seek residents to help create COVID-19 memorial

Shay Bottomley
Councillors seek residents to help create COVID-19 memorial

Vegetation surrounding the pond has began to emerge and the water is becoming clearer (Picture from Jason Mills)

Councillors have setup a Facebook group to help create a memorial for residents who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.

The memorial, which is hoped to be a place of ‘quiet reflection’, involves reprofiling a pond in Oakley Green Cemetery to create a ‘very natural’ area for residents to sit and reflect surrounded by nature and wildlife.

The council’s countryside manager, Jason Mills, told a Maidenhead Town Forum meeting Cllr Helen Taylor (tBF, Oldfield) and Cllr Donna Stimson (Con, St Marys) had approached him regarding a natural memorial to those who have died during the pandemic.

The pond had been installed around 30 years ago but had become overgrown despite the borough’s best efforts to maintain it as a wildlife feature.

“As is the case with some of the older ponds, the pond lining had been compromised, so it was struggling to hold water,” said Jason.

“We decided that this might be a good opportunity to not only reinstate what is quite a good wildlife feature in the area, but also this would be a good location for this memorial and somewhere for quiet reflection.”

He added that the work, which started in the winter months, saw the pond being ‘completely reinstated’ after it was dug out, a new liner was installed, and the pond was reprofiled.

The wildlife that was in the pond, namely one newt and three diving beetles, were relocated to Braywick.

Vegetation surrounding the pond has began to emerge and the water is becoming clearer, with aquatic plantation soon to be added.

“The great thing about ponds is that, although it can take a few years for the plants to fully establish, almost immediately we will begin to get a wildlife benefit,” said Jason.

“On a warm sunny day, it wouldn’t surprise me now if you could see dragonflies and other beetles starting to colonise the pond.”

A sign will also be added so residents can understand how the pond is functioning a water life feature as well as its purpose as a memorial as well as a bench for seating.

At the forum, Cllr Taylor said: “As we are coming out of the covid restrictions, hopefully, now it’s a good time to plan for the completion of the site.

“To that end we have set up a Facebook group, in order to encourage residents and volunteers who want to help us create the site and gain ideas of what they would like to see in relation to the memorial.

“We want to create a natural area with pathways, plants and benches where people can come and reflect and remember those that we’ve lost.

“Once the site is nearing completion, we hope to plant a tree to show the passage of time as we move out of the pandemic.”

The leader of the council, Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and the Walthams), said that he had ‘very strong support’ for the initiative.

“It’s clearly been a very difficult 16 months for all of our residents – I think that’s one of the greatest understatements ever given – [it’s been] a very challenging time,” said Cllr Johnson.

“Overall, I think this is a very fitting tribute to all of those who have lost loved ones during this crisis, which is, regrettably, not yet over.

“Going forward, it’s very fitting, we feel it’s the right proposition and I am very glad to support it.”

Residents can join the Facebook group by searching 'RBWM Covid-Memorial Volunteers Oakley Green' on the site.

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