In 1989 Tom Bush came back to Suffolk, to live at Yeovil House at Darsham. Buying land to plant a wood seemed like a good idea “to keep me out of mischief,” give him some enjoyment during retirement and provide a worthwhile legacy for his grandchildren.
The area he purchased at Farnham comprised 51 acres under arable cultivation and 26 acres of established tree belts, including part of an ancient woodland but mostly having been replanted in the 1950s and neglected.
The sale was completed a few months before the October 1987 hurricane, which brought many of the mature trees crashing down. During the next four years with the help of Paul Johnston of the Forestry Authority and grants from the farm woodland scheme and Countryside Commission, Tom planted sweet chestnuts, oaks, wild cherries, walnuts, mulberries and many other species – on the former arable land and, after thinning operations, in the established woodlands.
He watched contractors plant the first five acres and then decided he could not only do the job cheaper himself but get some exercise into the bargain. The work went on through cold and wet from 7.30 am with Tom stopping only for a cup of coffee, or in harsh cold, a nip of whisky. At noon he had to head home for a meal on his diabetic diet.
Although Tom did the greatest share of the planting, he from time to time enlisted the help of casual labour, including two “good looking and muscular” local women. Pausing to watch his grandchildren playing among the trees, he reflected on what the wood would look like when they were grown-up. “I do not believe in marble gravestones,” he said. “This wood is the only memorial I want.”
With Racewalk Covert finally planted up, Tom now carried out methodical maintenance – pruning, watering and tending his trees.
All this time Tom was fighting the local Planners for permission to have his wood consecrated as a Green Burial Ground. Months of meetings with “TE’s” his shorthand for Theoretical Environmentalists - people who pontificate about “green issues” from behind a desk and who never get their hands dirty. His scathing remarks often slowed down the delicate negotiations, but in the end Tom won his battle. Racewalk Covert would be the final resting place for those who sought peace and quiet.
Sadly, Tom’s health deteriorated soon after he had seen in the Millennium and he passed away last year. He went with a smile because he too would now be able to rest under his beloved trees.