|Former Olympians Mary Peters and Jim Kirkwood have helped a new generation of athletes put down roots at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The Olympic gold-medallists were joined by Conor Robinson and Conor Donnelly from Lisburn, Queen’s athletes who are supported by The Mary Peters Trust, and swimmer Sycerika McMahon from Portaferry, to plant the first of 420 trees at the University’s new Upper Malone Playing Fields.
The trees have been donated as part of the Woodland Trust’s Jubilee Woods project, which aims to plant six million trees across the UK to mark the Queen’s historic 2012 Diamond Jubilee.
The Upper Malone Playing Fields have recently undergone a £13 million refurbishment, resulting in floodlit playing surfaces for gaelic games, hockey, rugby, soccer and other sports; a new clubhouse with changing rooms, social area, bar and conferencing facilities; a dedicated strength and conditioning suite; and 3km recreational trim trail. The new wood will also feature a sapling from Her Majesty the Queen’s Sandringham Estate.
Speaking at the event, Gary Jebb, Director of Queen’s Estates Directorate, said: “This beautiful wood is not only a positive gesture for the ecosystem of South Belfast, it also enhances the extensive efforts by Queen’s to protect our environmental surroundings at Upper Malone while offering world-class sporting facilities for students and the community in South Belfast.”
Mary Peters said: “This year marks the 40th year since my Olympic Gold medal win and it is heartening to see Northern Ireland nurturing a new generation of successful athletes. It is essential that they continue to have access to more training opportunities to help develop their natural abilities and facilities such as these are vital in doing just that. I am delighted I have been able to join forces with the Woodland Trust to help enhance these magnificent facilities at Queen’s Upper Malone Playing Fields with this beautiful Jubilee Wood.”
Patrick Cregg, Director of the Woodland Trust, said: “The Woodland Trust is delighted to support the creation of a new Jubilee Wood at the Upper Malone Playing Fields. Tree planting is a wonderful way to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, while making a positive contribution to the landscape. And with such remarkable individuals - Olympic gold-medallists and top class athletes – making their mark today, we hope that landowners throughout the country will be inspired to get planting.”