This month an extraordinary thing happened; a man called Joerma Biernath and his team sailed a World War 2 training boat containing a tree (and a barrel of gin, naturally) 600 miles from Hannover in Saxony to the UK. This tree now has pride of place here in the Botanic Garden, planted by the sailors themselves, North Sea salt in their hair and now Bristol soil under their fingernails.
The tree is Cornus mas or Cornelian Cherry, a rare plant in Lower Saxony; the sailors have planted it outside our Welcome Lodge where it will live as a symbol of the bond between cities. In early spring it produces small bright yellow flowers at a time when flashes of brightness are such a welcome sight after a long dark winter.
Botanic Garden Curator, Nick Wray said, “This year marks the 75th anniversary of Bristol’s two oldest twinning relationships – Bordeaux and Hannover. The partnerships began in 1947 in the dark days following the Second World War. The twinning’s were agreed in a spirit of reconciliation and friendship with the aim of building a stronger Europe and avoiding any future conflicts”.
In attendance at the planting were Councillor Lars Kelich of Hannover, together with the Lord Mayor of Bristol Cllr Paula O’Rourke and Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant Mrs Peaches Golding OBE, who helped cover the roots in soil, and Professor Judith Squires, Acting Vice-Chancellor & President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor & Provost University of Bristol.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “Being able to mark these significant anniversaries is a really important part of our twinning partnerships. We’re lucky to be welcoming representatives from both Hannover and Bordeaux to our city to help us celebrate these milestones and would encourage Bristol residents to get involved as well”.
“Working closely with our twin cities in France and Germany is a vital part of Bristol’s international strategy. Relationships between the cities and their people which reach out across generations, cultures and borders are even more important at a time when we’re seeing devastating conflict in other parts of Europe”.
“In Bristol we are proud of the links we’ve built with our twin cities across the world and look forward to building more connections and exchanges for the future.”
The method of transportation and symbolic nature of this tree makes it a special addition to the Garden’s plant collection; next time you visit, keep an eye out for it in front of the Welcome Lodge, and reflect on the efforts to get it here!