When Janet Howes died of heart failure in 1995, she was just 50 years old. She’d spent 33 years married to the love of her life, Winston, who was devastated by her passing.
Winston wanted to create a memorial for his late wife, but it had to be spectacular. Many people plant a tree, dedicate a park bench or create some piece of artwork to celebrate the life of their dearly departed.
Winston did all three — and then some.
With the help of his son, Winston — a farmer in possession of 112 acres in the countryside of Gloucestershire, England — planted not one but thousands of oak saplings, dedicating six acres to his project.
The result was a heart-shaped clearing amid the oaks. But it was secret, providing Winston with a private place to reflect and remember his beloved wife.
No detail was overlooked: Large trees and hedges were planted around the perimeter of the heart shape to keep the outline crisp. Daffodils were planted in the center of the heart and made a great show every spring.
A bench was placed in the clearing so that Winston had a nice place to reminisce, and the single entrance and exit was at the tip of the heart — which pointed toward his wife’s childhood home.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Winston’s dedication was publicly recognized: That was the year that hot air balloonist Andy Collett spotted the tribute and was overwhelmed by the heart-shaped clearing.
“I have my own balloon and am quite a regular flyer, but this was the most amazing sight I have ever seen from the sky,” he said at the time, according to the Daily Mail.
“It was a perfect heart hidden away from view — you would not know it was there. You can just imagine the love story.”
But people wanted to know more, and soon the man behind it all decided to share something about the memorial he’d created.
“I came up with the idea of creating a heart in the clearing of the field after Janet died,” Winston said in 2012, according to the Daily Mail.
“I thought it was a great idea –- it was a flash of inspiration -– and I planted several thousand oak trees. Once it was completed we put a seat in the field, overlooking the hill near where she used to live.”
Winston also revealed that about five years prior he’d flown over the area and seen his handiwork from a new angle.
“I sometimes go down there, just to sit and think about things,” he said. “It is a lovely and lasting tribute to her which will be here for years.
“We planted large oak trees around the edge of the heart, then decided to put a hedge around it, too. The heart points towards Wotton Hill, where Janet is from. We plant daffodils in the middle that come up in the spring –- it looks great. I go out there from time to time and sit in the seat I created.”
It took 17 years for someone to notice the heart, and it’s been nearly a decade since the story was first told, but it still warms hearts: a tribute to a man and a woman who loved each other very much.
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