Monday 29 January 2024

Weeping Willows by June Webber, Crème de Menthe

The sky over Bluebell Wood darkened to a leaden grey and there was a distant growl of thunder. The birds fell silent, the trees waved their branches, and the willows wept into the stream.  Jack Greenwood their hero was dead.

                Jack had grown up on the edge of the wood in a village, which had since been swallowed up by the nearby town. He and his friends loved to play hide-and-seek, climb the trees, swing on the branches and paddle in the stream. In the spring the ground was a carpet of bluebells; in the summer shade from the sun; in the autumn the wood was a mass of russet and gold, and in the winter, snow lay on the branches and crunched underfoot.

                Years later he would take his own children and dog Luna to the wood, where they would splash in the stream and Luna would shake herself all over him.  They picnicked sitting on tree stumps, whilst Luna chased squirrels. During the Covid lockdown of 2020 it was a refuge, although limited to an hour a day. Soft toys appeared in the hollow of an oak, and people added to them until there was a collection of bears, elephants, squirrels and rag dolls.

                One day Jack was reading the local paper, when he threw it across the room.

 ‘The Council are planning to cut down our wood to build flats!’ he exclaimed to his wife Hazel.

‘Can they do that?’ she replied.

‘Over my dead body!’ he retorted.

Jack wrote to his councillor and M.P., stressing the importance of woodland for recreation and the environment. The Councillor replied that the Council were under pressure to build more housing. Jack attended the Council meeting and the motion to redevelop the wood was narrowly passed. He held a meeting of residents, where they formed an action group to protect the trees.  One of the members, a printer, produced posters and leaflets which they delivered to every house.  Posters saying ‘Save our Trees’ appeared in windows, and Jack was interviewed by the local paper.  Letters supporting the group poured in from ex-pats in America and Australia, as well as all parts of Britain.

The Council brought in the bulldozers, and the residents formed a cordon blocking the road. When they were dispersed by the police, Jack chained himself to the mighty oak.  They appeared on national television.  People brought Jack food and water, and blankets against the cold night air. An ancient document was discovered, which protected the wood in perpetuity, and the bulldozers were called off.  Jack was freed, but the exposure to cold and rain had taken its toll. He caught a cold which turned to pneumonia, which resisted the antibiotics he was prescribed. His funeral was packed out and his ashes were scattered round the base of the mighty oak. A wooden plaque was placed at the foot of the tree:

 Jack Greenwood, 1975- 2023, who saved this wood.

About the author

June Webber writes short stories and poetry and was included in The Best of CafeLit 11.  She is a member of two writing groups and one poetry group and attends Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. She lives in Dorset and is a great grandmother.


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