Residents and school children have planted memorial trees in South Ockendon under the Queen's Green Canopy initiative to remember the late Queen Elizabeth II.
On Wednesday 1 March, the Flowers Estate Resident Group held a school planting event with Year Five and Six pupils and Eco Council representatives at Benyon Primary School. A community tree planting day was also held with residents who were joined by Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Luke Spillman, Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Andrew Jefferies, and 1st Ockendon Scouts, Cubs and Squirrels at Canterbury Parade on Saturday 4 March.
Thurrock Council's Resident Engagement Team supported the Flowers Estate Resident Group, who had been gifted trees through the Woodland Trust and who initiated the project. The Resident Engagement Team project managed and facilitated the scheme’s delivery for both tree planting days and worked with the Tree and Grounds Maintenance Teams to secure suitable planting locations.
Both then worked in partnership with Essex Wildlife Trust's community programme, Nextdoor Nature, and independent health and wellbeing charity, Trust Links to hold the events.
Cllr Luke Spillman, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: "It's fantastic to see our Resident Engagement Team working with South Ockendon's Flowers Estate Resident Group to enhance existing open busy spaces within our estates as inviting green areas that are central to our communities. This will not only boost residents’ health and wellbeing but be enjoyed by many for years to come."
Cllr Andrew Jefferies, Cabinet Member for Environment, said: "Bringing nature into the community is a priority and 200 small saplings have been planted over the two events to honour Her Majesty. Many thanks to the Flowers Estate Resident Group for enabling local people to benefit from the Woodland Trust's tree gifting scheme."
Two small circular groups of young trees (saplings) were planted – one at Benyon Primary School and another on the Flowers Estate at Canterbury Parade. Children also took part in a bird feeder activity session, held by Trust Links, and educational activities, provided by the Nextdoor Nature programme.
Peter Handley, Committee Member of Flowers Estate Resident Group, said: "We're a small but growing number of men and women from the Flowers Estate in South Ockendon who are interested in the current climate, to improving the environment that we all live in and a holistic way of community well-being.
"After the passing of Queen Elizabeth II last year, The Woodland Trust distributed young small native trees to communities to commemorate her Jubilee. Our estate joined with our local primary school, Benyon, and their young Eco Council to plant a copse both in their playing fields and a mirrored planting on the green site near Canterbury Parade in South Ockendon. Axiom Personnel Ltd has provided a small pocket of funding for this.
"The community tree planting will also introduce Essex Wildlife Trust and health and wellbeing charity Trust Links to the estate, which is positive for the community."
Helen Innes, Wilder Community Officer for South Essex, Essex Wildlife Trust, said: "Nextdoor Nature is all about empowering local people to take action for nature in their neighbourhoods, to make space for wildlife and for people. We are hopeful that the Queen's Canopy project will kickstart a community group to join with the Flowers Estate Resident Group in caring for the new trees and the area around them. We have been working closely with Thurrock Youth Cabinet and hope to see more people in Ockendon getting involved with nature."
Matt King, Chief Executive Officer at Trust Links, said: "At Trust Links, we know that being outdoors and working in and with nature can have huge benefits for mental health and wellbeing. We are delighted to be working with Thurrock Council and the Flowers Estate Resident Group to help with the tree planting project and hope this will lead to many other joint initiatives to bring more greening, community connections and improved wellbeing to the local area."
Samantha Oxley, Head teacher at Benyon Primary School, said: "We are delighted to work with The Flowers Estate Residents Group Queen's Green Canopy Platinum Jubilee Trees Memorial Planting. This is an excellent opportunity to continue to build links with the local community. A lasting legacy for the children and staff of Benyon, trees are often seen as a symbol of life and growth and this will inspire us to reflect on our natural environment, connect with nature and consider our own growth and resilience."
Council tenants and leaseholders who would like to get involved with residents' groups and associations can contact the council's Resident Engagement Team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo below: Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Spillman, Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Jefferies, external partners, residents and 1st South Ockendon Scouts, Cubs and Squirrels.