In spring 2012, schools and colleges across the country joined up with number of partners to deliver a special tree planting project to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Coubertin Oaks Project celebrates the inspiration of the modern Olympic movement and will leave a lasting sustainable legacy from London 2012.
The project has been delivered by London 2012, Forestry Commission, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Much Wenlock Tree Forum, Wenlock Olympian Society, William Brookes School, The Woodland Trust, The Tree Council and Lead Logistics Supporter to London 2012, UPS.
The Coubertin Oaks story
In 1890, an English oak was planted in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, in honour of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement.
The planting celebrated Coubertin’s visit to Dr William Penny Brookes’ annual Wenlock Olympian Games. Brookes was a promoter of physical health and Coubertin, a French educationalist. He was inspired by Brookes’ work that linked health and wellbeing to exercise and the way that Brookes had drawn on the inspiration of the ancient Olympic Games as a model for the Wenlock Olympian Games.
This visit inspired Coubertin to hold the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896.
The Coubertin Oaks Project
Partners, colleges and schools participating in the Coubertin Oaks Project have planted a ribbon of 40 commemorative oaks from Much Wenlock in Shropshire to the Olympic Park in London. The oaks originate from the tree planted in Coubertin’s honour in Much Wenlock.
In 2004, acorns were taken from the original Coubertin oak by students of William Brookes School in Much Wenlock. The oak saplings were transferred to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and prepared for planting.
The oaks were given to schools and colleges and planted at the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UPS’ offices in Tamworth, the London 2012 Athletes’ Village and the RHS Great British Garden.
100 Days To Go
On 18 April, marking 100 Days To Go, the project was launched at Kew, Much Wenlock and Westonbirt Arboretum; where pupils from Rose Hill Westonbirt Preparatory School helped to plant the oak along with Forestry Commission Chair Pam Warhurst (see the video below).
Pupils and students from the Get Set Network of schools joined in the launch events along with the project partners and London 2012 personalities.
The remaining oaks have since been planted at Get Set Network schools and colleges between Shropshire and London, supported by the Forestry Commission, Tree Council tree wardens and Woodland Trust volunteers.
The sustainable Olympic legacy
Long term links will be developed between participating schools, colleges and communities and their local tree wardens and other volunteers.
This is an important opportunity for project partners to provide material to schools and colleges that help link the project with the national curriculum and wider learning opportunities.
London 2012 Chair Sebastian Coe said: “I’m delighted that we are getting ready to welcome the world by planting Coubertin oaks – each of the locations will have their own piece of London 2012 history.”
Pam Warhurst, Forestry Commission Chair: "This is an inspiring project that connects the 2012 Games to its origin and involves schools in a green Olympic legacy."
Simon Toomer, Director of the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt said: “The Coubertin oak at Westonbirt will provide a lasting reminder of the 2012 Olympics and the arboretum’s international links.”
Royal Botanic Gardens Head of Arboretum & Horticultural Services Tony Kirkham said: “This has been a most incredible and enjoyable project from its conception over 6 years ago; the hard work and commitment from everyone will leave a long lasting legacy.”