In 1996 The Birchgrove Group sponsored the planting of 1200 trees at the Woodland Trust's woodland creation site at Stratton St. Margaret, near Swindon, Wiltshire. This grove of trees will create a living and lasting tribute to the lives of people with haemophilia who were infected with HIV via contaminated clotting factors. lt was intended by Birchgrove that this woodland should become a peaceful place for people to visit and remember those who had their lives so profoundly affected by HIV.
Stratton Wood forms part of the group of woodlands freely open to the public and collectively known as the Great Western Community Forest.
This grove of trees is not only a memorial to those who have sadly died, but also shows the resilience and strength of those who are still affected and living with HIV/AIDS.
A locally sourced stone marks the site of the wood. It was recovered from an underground glacial riverbed and is inscribed with the words:
"Birchgrove - This grove celebrates the lives of the 1200 people with Haemophilia infected with HIV"
The stone and its installation were funded by individual sponsors including Birchgrove reader Stuart, who completed a sponsored cycle ride from Lands End to John O'Groats. Stuart said after his epic journey, "I'm proud to have done the ride to raise money for the Birchgrove Woodland - and I'd do it all again if I had to."
In 2010 following a bequest and further donations, a commemorative bench was placed by the trees, facing towards the stone in Stratton Wood.
Our huge thanks must go to a number of individuals who generously gave their money and time to ensuring the bench project was successful. We would also like to thank The Haemophilia Society for its support.
The bench was officially unveiled at an event on 25th September 2010.
The Birchgrove Woodland is on the north-eastern edge of Swindon in Wiltshire. The entrance to the woodland is not clearly visible and is accessed though an entrance in a hedge.
From the M4 come off at junction 15 and north on the A419 Swindon bypass. Continue straight over the first roundabout and proceed along the A419 until you come to the A361 turn-off for Highworth (also signs for Honda). Take the A361 road and continue for about half a mile unitl you reach the second round about where the 1st exit will take you along the B4141 Kingsdown Road. Continue on the B4141 Kingsdown Roadfor half a mile and Stratton Wood is on the right just past the entrance to the Kingsdown Mobile Home park. There is a car park with space for 25 cars and two disabled spaces.
From the car park to the edge of the woods is 180 metres. The stone in the centre of the grove is 330 metres from the car park. There are two wooden benches on the perimeter of the plot.
There is a hardcore path that skirts the perimeter of the Birchgrove plot which is suitable for wheelchairs. However the ground around the stone and throughout the grove is rough grassland. Ensure your batteries are fully charged or you have someone to help you out of ruts.
PLEASE BE AWARE: Update (March 2016) we've been informed that the car park to the woodland has now been reopened, but please be aware that there is still building work happening nearby, and this is causing some disruption. You can park in the car park and gain direct access to the site using the paths provided.