A Rowan tree planted in loving memory of Jill Edbrooke

12 February 2015
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On Tuesday 11th February staff of CIDT planted a Rowan Tree in memory of Jill Edbrooke. We did this with the help of campus staff and some fifty international forestry governance specialists from around the world who were attending a two day CIDT workshop on the Telford Campus.

Following a minutes silence and some shared thoughts about Jill we all participated in helping finishing off the planting of a very special tree. While we are sure that Jill would have been happy with a VIP planting the tree we all felt that a “participatory planting” was much more appropriate!

We planted a Rowan tree. The Rowan tree is in genus Sorbus of family Rosaceae. They are native in UK and throughout the cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with the highest species diversity in the mountains of western China and the Himalaya. As many of you know Jill was recently working in Nepal in this region at the end of the Livelihoods Forestry Programme (LFP) and the start of the new Mullti Stakeholder Forestry Programme (MSFP).

The Rowan is very attractive to fruit-eating birds, which is reflected in the old name “bird catcher”. We look forward to our native birds being here in springtime and summer.

The Rowan has mythic roots going back to classical times. It is also prominent in Norse mythology as the tree from which the first woman was made, (the first man being made from the ash tree). I’m sure Jill would have liked this story!

The Rowan’s wood is strong and resilient, making excellent walking sticks, and is suitable for carving. It was often used for tool handles, and spindles and spinning wheels were traditionally made of Rowan wood. I’m sure Jill would have liked the practical nature of the tree!

The fruit berries of the Rowan can be a substitute for coffee beans, (this could be very useful for us in CIDT as we seem to consume quite a bit of coffee!) The berries also have many uses in alcoholic beverages: to flavor liqueurs and cordials, to produce country wine, and to flavor ale. The Scots make a strong spirit from the berries, the Welsh brew an ale, the Irish use them to flavour Mead, Rowan berry jelly is still often made and is traditionally eaten with game.

We wonder if Jill’s Rowan tree might even help us with some local Climate Change predictions. In Newfoundland, popular folklore maintains that a heavy crop of fruit on the Rowan means a hard or difficult winter. Similarly, in Finland and Sweden, the number of fruit on the trees was used as a predictor of the snow cover during winter, but here the belief was that the Rowan “will not bear a heavy load of fruit and a heavy load of snow in the same year”, that is, a heavy fruit crop predicted a winter with little snow.

However, as fruit production for a given summer is related to weather conditions the previous summer, with warm, dry summers increasing the amount of stored sugars available for subsequent flower and fruit production, it has no predictive relationship to the weather of the next winter

A final interesting aspect of the European folklore around the Rowan is that it was thought to be a magical tree and give protection against malevolent beings. The tree was also called “wayfarer’s tree” or “traveller’s tree” because it supposedly prevents those on a journey from getting lost. This seems most appropriate – with CIDT staff travelling the world over Jill’s tree will help bring us all back home safely.


We had a snow storm on the Telford Campus only two hours before the tree planting ceremony! However we all know that trees need plenty of water!

Jill’s Rowan tree arrives and the sun comes out. It’s planted in the sun!

After a minutes silence and some thoughtful words about Jill we all participate in helping finish off the planting. The CIDT Admin team of Dawn, Hayley, Mandy and Vicky lead the way. Others slowly follow.

It takes time for 70 people to plant a tree but we all know it’s what Jill would have liked. Everyone participates in thoughtful and active manner. 

Finally the professionals tidy up with some finishing touches of gravel. Jill’s tree is planted and ready to grow. We look forward to caring for it and to the many happy memories it will bring.