'Mindless' vandals destroy memorial tree for popular Colsterworth man
A tree decorated in memory of a popular dog walker has been destroyed in a “mindless act of vandalism”.
Jim Church, who lived in Colsterworth with his wife, passed away in August after a short battle with bronchopneumonia.
Since moving to the village six years ago, Jim, visited Twyford Woods near the village, which is popular with dog walkers, every morning to walk his black Labrador, Harvey.
He quickly became very popular among other dog walkers and a group of them would often meet at the woods each morning.
Paula Young, who met Jim while walking her dog, said: “He was everybody’s friend and loved doing things for people. He used to make us blackberry whisky and sloe gin and chutney using crab apples. He was a great listener and had a wicked dry sense of humour, but above all he was a real friend of the woods.
“He would always be picking up litter or clearing the pathways after a storm.
“When a lorry shed its load of gravel one day, Jim was straight up there with a bucket, filling in all the potholes in the car park. Nothing was too much for him.”
Five years ago, Jim, who had three grown up children, started decorating a small pine tree in the middle of the woods with lights and decorations throughout the Christmas period, after seeking permission from the Forestry Commission.
Paula added: “Jim would always turn the lights on in the morning and I would turn them off later.”
John Carmichael, of Corby Glen, also became good friends with Jim when he started walking his dog at the woods five years ago.
He said: “When Jim passed away last year, about 30 of us regular dog walkers that had known him wanted to keep decorating the tree in his memory. It was extra special this year and became a real community effort.”
The tree carried messages of condolence and flowers from Jim’s family and friends, as well as a special personalised bauble with Jim’s name on it.
The group were left heartbroken after discovering that the tree had been vandalised just before New Year.
John said: “It had been broken in half and thrown into a path.
“One of the dog walkers discovered it on Monday, December 31. We know that it was intact at about 2pm on Sunday, December 30 as one of the other dog walkers passed it, so we think it happened later that afternoon or evening.”
As well as snapping the tree in two, tributes were also scattered around the area.
John added: “It had a laminated sign and bunch of flowers at the tree so it was very obvious to anyone that it was a memorial.
“It is an act of sheer stupidity and mindless vandalism committed by someone who obviously finds this kind of thing amusing.”
Despite being disappointed, the group is determined not to be beaten.
John added: “We plan to decorate a tree close to the original one this year but it is still very disheartening especially after it managed to remain untouched for all these years.”
Paula added: “None of the decorations or lights were stolen from the tree so it seems that it was just destroyed for the sake of it.
“However it won’t take away our memories of Jim. We all miss him immensely at the woods.
“He has left a massive hole for us all.”