The first trees in a new community orchard were planted in Cardiff’s Bute Park today (30th November) as plans developed in the wake of a devastating vandalism attack on the park begin to bear fruit.
Dozens of trees were destroyed by vandals, and thousands of pounds worth of damage caused to the park in September last year, but out of that dark day in the park’s history came a community-led crowdfunding campaign that, coupled with funding from the council’s Coed Caerdydd mass tree planting programme, will see two trees planted in the park planted for every one tree destroyed by vandals.
Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Events, Cllr Jennifer Burke-Davies, said: “Bute Park’s the green heart of the city and the attack really felt like a knife in the heart for everyone involved, the team working there, the volunteers who help us look after it, the businesses who operate from the park, and I’m sure for the people who make over 2.5m visits to the park every year.
“More than 20,000 trees were planted in Cardiff over the last planting season and this season our Coed Caerdydd project aims to plant even more, but I’m not sure any will feel more significant than the ones planted today.”
“A big thank you has to go the community, their response with the crowdfunding, and the genuine care they show for the park, it’s been fantastic. The funds they’ve raised to replace the lost trees, many of which were planted by families in memory of their loved ones, has been essential.”
There will be two orchard locations: a main one to the north of Blackweir playing fields, and a smaller one adjacent to the historic ‘Orchard Lawn’ where the first heritage fruit trees, including apple, greengage, plum, pear, and cherry were planted today.
The idea for a community orchard sprang out of a ‘Reclaim the Park’ event held in the days after the attack. Organised by local architect Den Benham, alongside Melissa Boothman, whose Secret Garden Café sits at the heart of the park, the event also led to Ms Boothman establishing a crowdfunding campaign that raised more than £5,000 towards replacement trees.
Speaking on behalf of the Community Orchard for Bute Park Steering Group, Melissa Boothman, said: “Our community is amazing. It wanted to go so much further than just helping to replace and make good the damage done. People believe in Bute Park as “the people’s park” and today’s planting is the start of a living symbol of hope and resilience. The vision of an orchard designed by the community, planted by them and enjoyed by all has begun.”
Further trees at the larger orchard site are expected to be planted before the end of the planting season, which runs until spring next year.
Replanting of the memorial trees destroyed in the attack has also begun. Nirdeep Kaur, who lost the memorial tree planted in memory of her mother to the vandalism, said: “My Mum was born here in Cardiff, but she died in India, and she was cremated so there was no headstone or anything, the tree was going to be ‘her place.’
“The whole family had contributed to raise money for it, so when I found out about the vandalism I was devastated, and so embarrassed as well, I just felt naïve thinking it would be there for years. I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t know then that we were going to get it replanted.
“I was so happy and relieved when I found out the money had been raised and it was being replanted, it means so much to me.”
For information about the Friends of Bute Park and how to get involved in protecting and enhancing the park, visit our website.