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U3A community arboretum project given cash donation
The Isle of Arran U3A has received a kind donation of £250 from Brodick Co-op towards its community arboretum project, a botanical garden devoted to trees, writes Hugh Boag.
Members of the third age university came up with the idea of an arboretum last year during lockdown when everyone was discussing the desire to recognise the selflessness and commitment of NHS staff, particularly the island’s own medical group, during this long and difficult year.
Chairwoman Mhairi-Aileen Smeir explained: ‘Many of our members are over 55 and have been in the shielding and vulnerable categories and they were so grateful for the very many people within the community who helped them, and continue to help, with everyday necessities such as shopping and medicines. They wanted to show their appreciation in a tangible and long lasting way.
‘Some members were close to those in our community who suffered from and died through Covid-19 and, of course, we were all affected by the loss of life on our small island.
‘Many felt this suffering and loss should be commemorated in a physical way too.
‘All our members believe the arboretum should be a place for everyone in the community to use and enjoy for contemplation, remembrance and appreciation of how lucky we are to live in a place whose community spirit has shown itself in so many incredible ways and keeps on doing so with no signs of stopping anytime soon.
‘That is why we feel the arboretum, hopefully made up of many varied trees chosen for their individual meanings and special Arran connections, such as the Arran Whitebeam, would be a fitting and living memorial.
‘A special place with hard and soft landscaping, easily accessible to all, set within a beautiful and serene landscape and at its heart a memorial stone set above a time capsule contributed by the community.
‘We live surrounded by trees on Arran, but this planting can hold such special meaning for our community, collectively designed and planted, nurtured by emotion and sentiment, a living growing focus for remembrance and peace.
‘The U3A members are working with other groups on the island to identify the best possible site. We have been generously offered land.
Unfortunately it is not as accessible or large enough for parking and we are continuing to search for that special site.
‘We are inviting all members of the island community and those who love Arran to become involved with this project. Everyone is welcome to contribute in some way.
‘Sponsoring specific trees; contributing to landscaping; helping with ground preparation or planting; making tea and sandwiches for those working on the land; any and all kinds of advice with hard landscaping; there are limitless ways and means to become a part of this community memorial.
‘If you have any ideas or suggestions please get in touch or if you can offer some time or labour, we would really like to hear from you. Any involvement, large or small, will be greatly appreciated and you will be part of a wonderful Arran adventure.
‘Although we are not yet free from this dreadful pandemic, we now have some hope of light at the end of this dark year with vaccinations under way and restrictions slowly lifting. We had hoped to start work on the arboretum last year, however, Covid-19 restrictions and the difficulties arising from them has meant postponement until this year.
‘This delay has allowed us to investigate more fully what people feel should be included and what form the final design should take and armed with this knowledge we are looking forward to autumn planting.
‘A big thank you to Liz and Carol at our great Brodick Co-op for all their support and this fantastic boost to our arboretum funding.
‘We are delighted with this wonderful surprise and know this £250 will be well used as we move forward with our plans for a community remembrance garden.
‘Our U3A was formed in January last year and only had one proper face-to-face meeting before 14 months of virtual and email contact, yet our members have mastered many new skills, made and renewed friendships and continue to enjoy their group activities, renewing their memberships and continuing to support their U3A.’