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Johnson's Willow at Arboretum

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer specialising mainly in health and education and living in Staffordshire. Find me on Linked In
Published March 18th 2020
A link to the early 1700s joins trees at arboretum
The 'offspring' of a special tree with historical significance have been added to the collection at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Lichfield District Council has donated the four important trees which were grown from cuttings of 'Johnson's Willow' that stands next to Stowe Pool in Lichfield. Johnson's Willow became famous in the 18th century for its great size and because of the interest that Dr Samuel Johnson showed in it. Lichfield-born Dr Johnson is remembered as the creator of the first authoritative dictionary of the English language, as well as many other literary achievements. When he was young, he often passed the willow and always made a point of visiting it during his later returns to Lichfield. Following Dr Johnson's death in 1784, many people visited the tree because of its connection with the writer. Although the original blew down in 1829, cuttings were taken from it, and a second willow was planted. Ever since then, the process of renewal has been repeated, with the current tree being the fourth incarnation of Johnson's Willow.

Johnson's Willow, National Memorial Arboretum
A plaque at one of the Johnson's Willow cuttings at the National Memorial Arboretum


The four young descendants were formally presented to the National Memorial Arboretum, at Alrewas, near Lichfield, by Councillor Joe Powell, chairman of Lichfield District Council, ahead of a formal tree-planting ceremony. He was joined by members of the historical Johnson Society and the Arboretum team to see the special trees being planted and plaques unveiled. The event followed a request by the Johnson Society for the trees to be planted at the 150-acre site, which is the nation's year-round centre for remembrance. This was in response to concerns that the current Johnson's Willow is nearing the end of its life. Lichfield District Council took a number of cuttings from the historic willow two and a half years ago, and has since been nurturing the trees, which now stand at around six foot tall.

Johnson's Willow, National Memorial Arboretum
Paul Niven, John Winterton, Coun Joe Powell and Philippa Rawlinson plant one of the new trees


John Winterton, from the Johnson Society, said: "We are all delighted to see the trees planted at the National Memorial Arboretum. Johnson's Willow is a unique, living link with Samuel Johnson and his age. It keeps alive the memory of the people of the past and their achievements, so that we can honour and learn from them both now and in the future. Since this is very much in line with the principles on which the National Memorial Arboretum was founded, it is highly appropriate that cuttings from Johnson's Willow should join the collection here." Coun Powell commented: "It's wonderful to see these four important trees being planted in the beautiful surroundings of the National Memorial Arboretum. It allows us to share a piece of Lichfield's history with the many people that will visit over the years, who will enjoy the trees and their heritage." And, Andy Ansell, Head of Estates at the Arboretum, added: "Johnson's Willow is a fantastic addition to the arboretum's collection, which already includes a wide array of British native specimens. Every day our memorials pass on the baton of remembrance to younger generations through stories of incredible courage and service, in much the same way that Johnson's Willow has been preserved through the planting of cuttings."

National Memorial Arboretum
One of the many memorials at the Arboretum


For more information about the National Memorial Arboretum. visit www.thenma.org.uk. More details about Dr Johnson and Johnson's Willow can be found at www.thejohnsonsociety.org.uk
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Why? A link to the 18th century planted at national arboretum
When: All year
Phone: 01283 245100
Where: National Memorial Arboretum, Croxall Road, Alrewas, Staffordshire DE13 7AR
Cost: Free entry but parking charge
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