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From little acorns...

Over the last few weeks, hundreds of lovingly packaged acorns have been arriving at our office. But these are no ordinary acorns.

They are from Verdun Oaks – trees planted as living memorials to those who died in the First World War.

Verdun was the longest single battle of the war. In a poignant act of remembrance, the mayor collected acorns and chestnuts from the devastated battlefields and sent them to England where they were distributed by the London and North West Railway Company to raise money for the War Seal Foundation.

The Verdun oak at Corby Castle (Image courtesy of Corby Castle)
The Verdun oak at Corby Castle (Image courtesy of Corby Castle)

 We've tracked some of them down

  • One in the grounds of Corby Castle, Carlisle, ancestral home of the Howard Family now owned by the Ballyedmond family. A former member of staff of the late Lord Ballyedmond, on hearing of the Trust’s search on local news, remembered the Corby Castle tree and put us in touch with the deputy head gardener on the estate who sent photographs of the oak and accompanying plaque, which reads: “This oak was brought from the battlefield of Verdun and planted by Philip J C Howard of Corby May 1919 to commemorate the signing of peace.”
  • Two in Beaumont Park, Huddersfield. The Trust already knew of horse chestnuts grown from Verdun seeds, but learnt from a number of local people that there were also Verdun oaks with plaques in the park.
  • One in Forbury Gardens, Reading. We knew from local history archives that a Verdun Oak had been planted in the gardens but had been unable to confirm if it had survived as the plaque had been moved to a local museum during re-landscaping of the gardens. The location of the Verdun Oak was confirmed by Dave Kenny, Lead Volunteer Verifier with the Woodland Trust Ancient Tree Inventory.
  • One in Farnham, Surrey, next to the Hale War Memorial.
The plaque on the Verdun oak at Corby Castle (Image courtesy of Corby Castle)
The plaque on the Verdun oak at Corby Castle (Image courtesy of Corby Castle)

The trees we’d already found were in:

  • The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • The War Memorial Park and Spencer Park, Coventry
  • Southwold, Suffolk
  • The Garden of Remembrance in Lichfield, Staffordshire
  • The Sandringham Estate, Norfolk
  • East Street in Pembridge, Herefordshire
  • Grange Park in Leominster.

Headteacher Claire Faulkner said:

“The children thoroughly enjoyed helping to harvest the acorns, so future generations can enjoy the trees and remember those who fought so bravely to bring peace.”

Future of the Verdun Oak acorns

The acorns arriving in the post have been collected by our supporters and volunteers, landowners and community groups such as 1st Leominster Brownies and children from SS Peter and Paul Catholic Primary School in Lichfield.

The acorns will now be grown on and in 2018 the saplings will be planted in our First World War Centenary Woods at:

  • Langley Vale, Surrey
  • Dreghorn Woods, near Edinburgh
  • Coed Ffos Las in Carmarthenshire
  • Brackfield Wood in County Londonderry.

The First World War Centenary Woods project is supported by lead partner Sainsbury's, helping the Woodland Trust to plant millions of native trees to commemorate the First World War.

We believe life is better with trees. Whether you want to plant trees in your garden, or join forces with your neighbours to plant a wood in your community, let us help you.