With 100 days to go to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt is getting ready to welcome the world by planting one of 40 ‘Coubertin oaks’ – trees grown from acorns taken from an oak planted in 1890 in Much Wenlock in honour of the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Pierre de Coubertin.
Westonbirt’s Coubertin oak will be planted on 18 April; close to the location of the arboretum’s planned new Welcome Building, which is currently being fundraised for by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum for the Westonbirt Project.
The planting at the Forestry Commission managed National Arboretum is part of an initiative which will see a ribbon of oaks planted to link Much Wenlock with the Olympic Park. The trees have been grown from acorns taken from a tree planted in Linden Field in Much Wenlock, in 1890 in honour of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement. The tree was planted to celebrate Coubertin’s visit to the location of Dr William Penny Brookes’ annual Wenlock Olympian Games.
The acorns were taken by students in William Brookes School in Much Wenlock in 2004, in anticipation of London winning the bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The following year the small oak saplings were transferred to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew where professionals have overseen their growth and prepared them for planting.
The National Arboretum joins a group of schools and colleges which have been invited to participate in the project as part of the Get Set network, the official London 2012 education programme, and situated along the route of the ribbon. Pupils from Rose Hill Westonbirt School, part of the Get Set network, will help plant the Coubertin oak at Westonbirt Arboretum.
The ribbon will pass through various points from Much Wenlock to the Olympic Park, including Stoke Mandeville Combined School and The Mandeville School, both close to Stoke Mandeville Hospital – the birthplace of the Paralympic Games.
Coubertin Oaks will also be planted at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and UPS premises in Camden.
Pam Warhurst, Forestry Commission Chair, said:
"We are delighted to be part of this project that connects the 2012 Games to its origin and involves schools in a green Olympic legacy."
Simon Toomer, Director of Westonbirt, The National Arboretum said:
“It's a real honour for Westonbirt to be chosen as a site for one of the Coubertin Oaks. The tree will provide a lasting reminder of the 2012 Olympics and the arboretum’s international links.”
Stephanie Bryan of Rose Hill Westonbirt Preparatory School said:
“As part of the Get Set network of schools and close neighbours of Westonbirt Arboretum, pupils from Rose Hill Westonbirt Preparatory School are delighted to be involved with the ceremonial Olympic tree planting at the arboretum.”
London 2012 Chair Sebastian Coe said:
“I’m delighted that the Forestry Commission is getting ready to welcome the world by planting a Coubertin Oak, now Westonbirt Arboretum will have its own piece of London 2012 history.”
Royal Botanic Gardens Head of Arboretum & Horticultural Services Tony Kirkham said:
“Working with the entire team on the Coubertin oak planting has been a most incredible and enjoyable project from its conception over 6 years ago; all the hard work and commitment from everyone will leave a long lasting legacy of oak trees linking Much Wenlock to the 2012 Olympic site in London.”
The Coubertin oaks project is being delivered by London 2012, Forestry Commission, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Much Wenlock Tree Forum, Wenlock Olympian Society, William Brookes School and the Woodland Trust. The Tree Council is also providing planting support to schools and UPS are leading on logistical support.
Notes to Editor
Venue: Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Gloucestershire, GL8 8QS
Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is managed by the Forestry Commission and is renowned worldwide for its tree and shrub collection. Home to the National Japanese Maple Collection, the arboretum covers 243 hectares (600 acres) and contains 16,000 specimens. Visitor numbers are over 350,000 a year, with a membership of over 28,000. Westonbirt Arboretum was established in the 1850s by wealthy landowner Robert Holford, and later developed by his son George Holford. Unlike many arboretums, Westonbirt is laid out according to aesthetic appeal rather than scientific or geographical criteria. Visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt.
Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager, Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, on 01666 881 207 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Woodmansey, LOCOG Press Officer, on 0203 2012461 or email@example.com