ROTHERHAM’S Covid-19 memorial garden officially opens on Saturday (27) — but visitors are told not to go along just yet.
Hope Fields at Thrybergh Country Park will include a pond and wetland, community orchard, interactive play activities and a bird hide.
But restrictions mean the unveiling is being prerecorded and will be broadcast on Facebook.
Cllr Sarah Allen, cabinet member for cleaner, greener communities, said: “There is no need to rush to visit. It’s intended to be there for ever more so that people can enjoy some quiet contemplation.”
The online launch will include performances by the Sangeet Choir and Rotherham Symphony Orchestra, prayers from faith leaders, and films showing the transformation of the site, which has been designed to protect and enhance existing biodiversity.
The Mayor of Rotherham, Cllr Jenny Andrews, will plant and dedicate a tree as part of proceedings, which will also include a first look at the art installation from stonemason Dan Jones.
The aim is for Hope Fields to be not only a tribute to those who lost their lives but also everyone who was part of the response and recovery.
Leanne Buchan, RMBC head of creative programming and engagement, said: “Given that restrictions are still in place and the park already receives a lot of visitors, particularly at weekends, we ask that initially people join us online to remember those we have lost, and to honour the resilience, kindness and strength that our key workers, volunteers and communities have shown.
“Many people raised concerns that their loved one might not be included because Covid-19 wasn’t the official cause of death.
“Others said seeing a loved one’s name on a public memorial would be upsetting and stop Hope Fields being a place where they and their family could heal and look to the future.”
Visitors will have the chance to write messages on yellow hearts made from rice paper, which does not risk harming wildlife.
In April, Planet Art’s Flock installation commissioned for Wentworth Woodhouse will move to Hope Fields.
It includes more than 5,000 wooden birds depicting lockdown stories and emotions.
Sarah McLeod, Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust chief executive, said: “The last year has been tough for so many people and Flock really celebrates the resilience within communities that got people through it, and highlights how important green spaces and nature were to so many.
“It’s wonderful for Flock to be included as part of this memorial and for those stories to be shared with new audiences.”
Watch the ceremony from 10am on Saturday at www.facebook.com/RMBCEvents.