Residents gather to plant Richmond’s new community woodland

Residents from 11 decades at Rufus Woods. Photo: Chris Houghton of Richmond Camera Club

Residents representing 11 decades have gathered at a community woodland to mark the 950th anniversary of Richmond Castle being built by one of William the Conqueror’s closest allies.

The event saw the town’s residents born in 1921, 2021 and every decade in between plant an avenue of oaks at Rufus Woods, named after Alan Rufus, Lord of Richemont in Upper Normandy, who commissioned the castle in 1071.

The woodland, which has been given planning consent by Richmondshire District Council, is taking shape on a site a hectare site south of the old racecourse which has been offered at a peppercorn rent by landowners including the Earl of Ronaldshay.

However, plans to involve the community in the planting of 950 native trees had to be altered because of Covid restrictions.

The team of local businesspeople behind the project said the replacement event involving every generation had captured the public’s imagination and volunteers chosen to plant trees included Thea Greig born in 2021 through to Henry Coatsworth born in 1921.

Thea Grieg (b. 2021) and Henry Coatsworth (b. 1921) the youngest and the oldest of the oak tree planters in Rufus Woods. Photo: Jane Morris Abson of Richmond Camera Club.

A 12th oak tree was planted by local resident Colin Grant on behalf of HMS Richmond, the Royal Navy Frigate associated with the town.

Judy Wray, manager of Terrace Care Home, who arranged for residents to take part in the event, said: “This was such a positive day for Henry, David, who was born in 1931, and 80-year-old Avery and their families.

“It’s all they have spoken about ever since. We’ll be back when the access paths have been completed later this year to visit our trees and check on their progress.”

Project spokeswoman Jo Foster said: “The hope is that Rufus Woods grows into a space where people of all generations will come to relax, learn, play and exercise.

“So, it was really important for us to find a Covid-safe way to involve the community in the planting. It was fantastic to see the smiles on faces of all ages. Everyone was so proud to contribute. It really felt like something special happened here today.

“We are starting to get wildlife coming into the woods. response to not be able to make the planting open access.”

Ms Foster said those behind the 950th anniversary celebrations were continuing to re-invent elements of the programme to make them suitable for the pandemic restrictions, such as open air archaeology at Richmond Castle and open air cinema on the Zetland estate.

She said: “It means what’s going on is a bit more special in a way. The town is heaving. I’ve never seen so many tourists in Richmond and they’re obviously not just coming for the day.

“So these events are getting hoovered up by people looking for stuff to do. ”

The scheme’s organisers are appealing for sponsors for the first 300 trees in Rufus Woods, to support the future management of the woods.

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