A descendant of the benefactor who gifted Dane Park to the residents of Margate has taken part in a cherry tree planting at the site.
John Woodward, who celebrated his 91st birthday this week, joined Colourful Margate for the planting at the park today (April 18). He is the great-great-nephew, and named after, John Woodward who bought the park – formerly farmland – at auction in 1895.
Mr Woodward was a Margate resident and presented the land to the inhabitants of the town to form the park, together with additional land for forming and widening the surrounding roads and six acres of building land on the south west side of the park.
Dane Park was opened by the Lord Mayor of London on June 1, 1898. It had a substantial lake, rustic bridges, swans and peacocks, refreshment rooms and a bandstand.
A fountain was erected in the park by the corporation of Margate as a memorial to the Mr Woodward.
Today’s planting means the continued growth of the cherry tree project started by the Colourful Margate group in 2018.
The first 16 ornamental cherry trees were planted in October/November 2018 with the help of residents, local businesses and local councillors, in close collaboration with the Thanet District Council Open Spaces Team and KCC Councillor Barry Lewis, and in partnership with Dane Valley Woods and Margate Civic Society.
Since then the number of cherry trees in Dane Park has increased to 123 with varieties of Japanese Sakura chosen by Colourful Margate based on factors such as the variation of colour, timing and historical significance.
The planting in 2019/2020 was made possible with funding from the Urban Tree Challenge Fund and carried out under a former partnership with Isle of Thanet Trees and Woods Initiative, with the help of the community.
Colourful Margate founder Stephanie Nsom said: “Dane Park has 123 cherry trees and we don’t intend to stop there! We continue to be inspired by the stunning vision of Washington DC’s cherry blossom with its more than 3,000 Japanese cherry trees.
“It was a great pleasure to meet with John Woodward and a beautiful gesture of his children to donate this new Japanese cherry tree (Prunus Beni-Yutaka) for his birthday. It felt like a small moment in history to be there with John and plant his cherry tree 126 years after his great-great uncle bought the land at auction – now Dane Park.
“We hope that the Dane Park fountain will be reinstated soon. Wouldn’t it look lovely, a working fountain with blossoming cherry trees in Spring.”
Stephanie said there will be more plantings this year and the desire for more trees is growing nationally.
She said: “We were pleased to read in February this year about the National Trust announcing its project to plant blossom trees in cities nationwide in the UK. It is great to see that others share a similar vision.
“Margate Civic Society believed in and supported our Dane Park Cherry Tree project from the very beginning and to show our appreciation, a label for the Margate Civic Society’s cherry tree went up in December 2020, in presence of Honorary Secretary Geoff Orton.
“One of our ongoing future goals has been to involve the younger community more in cherry tree planting. This idea is taking shape since February this year.
“Colourful Margate started collaborating with the national Sakura Cherry Tree Project in the UK, to provide free cherry trees to schools in Thanet. The Sakura project marks 150 years of Japan-UK friendship and the continued cooperation between the two nations. Launched in 2017, and because cherry blossom is the national flower of Japan, 6,000 cherry trees have been planted throughout the UK since 2020, with a dedicated school program.
“These trees from the Sakura project are a gift from the people of Japan to the people of the UK, sponsored by Japanese businesses.”
Seven schools in Margate and one in Westgate-on-Sea received their free cherry trees for planting in March and Colourful Margate and the Sakura team are contacting all schools in Thanet to offer a free cherry tree for planting in November