Memory tree planted in Hornchurch's Secret Blind Garden

Mayor John Myhol at Harrow Lodge Park garden

Havering Mayor John Mylod giving a speech at the memory tree planting. - Credit: Cash Boyle

A tree to remember those lost to Covid-19 has been planted in the Garden for the Blind at Harrow Lodge Park.

Havering Mayor John Mylod did the honours on Friday (April 23), watched by a number of volunteers who had been working on green space throughout the morning.

On the garden - which turns 60 in July and is also called the Secret Blind Garden - Cllr Mylod said: "I can't believe that after all these years, it's still here. I'm really pleased to be planting this tree, which is intended to remember those we've lost, but also to think about happy times."

Mayor John Mylod and Shelley Hart

The chief executive of Havering Volunteer Centre, Shelley Hart, has been in charge of maintaining the garden since 2015. - Credit: Cash Boyle

The Hornchurch garden faced an uncertain future until its maintenance was taken over by Havering Volunteer Centre (HVC) in 2016. 

Since then, its chief executive Shelley Hart has organised two volunteering days each year to spruce up the space, with local groups getting involved alongside employees of Network Rail.

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Shelley said: "We achieved so much but there is still a lot to undertake and we want the garden to be summer ready and inviting for everyone with sensory impairment to enjoy. 

"Friday was a lovely atmosphere and everyone said how great it was to be able to get out and do something."

Garden in Harrow Lodge Park Hornchurch

Workers at National Rail have been involved in the bi-annual volunteering days since Shelley Hart's organisation assumed responsibility for the garden. - Credit: Cash Boyle

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Many of the flowers and plants are purposely chosen for their sensory qualities, the chief executive explained, with the garden now boasting more than a thousand varieties altogether. 

The tree itself was donated by Dementia Action Alliance, which also provided new circular benches.

Written tributes will come to adorn the tree, with tags to be circulated to those wishing to remember loved ones.

Service users of garden in Harrow Lodge Park

L-R: Mo Brace, Mike Brace, Emma Steadman, Sandra Steadman and Glynda Davison (Chair of the Friend of the Secret Blind Garden group). - Credit: Cash Boyle

An area of reflection - named after Network Rail worker Perry Hatcher who passed away last month - is also set to be installed in the garden. 

Perry's Spot is intended to recognise his contribution to the garden over the years and will be a space for people to be alone with their thoughts.

Day-to-day maintenance is undertaken by Friends of the Secret Blind Garden and three regular gardeners, with Shelley "hugely grateful" for their dedication to the space.

Secret Blind Garden, Harrow Lodge Park, Mayor John Mylod

Mayor of Havering, Councillor John Mylod, planting the memory tree at the Secret Blind Garden, Harrow Lodge Park. - Credit: Cash Boyle

As the chief executive of a volunteering centre, she believes those who give their time are the "lifeblood" of the community.

Cllr Mylod agrees: "I think Havering runs on volunteers; without volunteers, we wouldn't achieve much."

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