Floyds Field – A Ceremonial Planting and Laying Down
Only two germinated into what we affectionately referred to as the ‘radical sisters’. I cared for them as they grew in the only way I could – mostly neglectfully but also by carefully observing them for any signs of distress. It was fascinating to watch was how each had a unique form. One seedling came straight up growing on one long stem, the second grew entirely differently, with three stems – stocky but strong.
Three years on and with beautiful synchronicity, we were able to plant the saplings on Floyd’s Field on the western edge of Coventry – a green space for dog walking and kick-about football. It was the first site identified by Coventry Council for an extensive tree planting campaign to coincide with the city’s Year of Culture and according to the council’s Parks Teams, the origin of the name Floyd’s fields was little if not unknown to most people.
Lettice Floyd, born in Berkswell in 1865, donated the field to the people of Coventry and was a full-time worker for the Women’s Social and Political Union. Both Lettice and her romantic partner Annie Williams, also a Suffragette, were imprisoned after the window smashing campaign of 1912. Both were sent to Holloway Prison where they went on hunger strike, and Lettice was later honoured with a medal of valour by the WSPU for her efforts.
On a sunny cold day in October 2021, we were joined by about 20 women, many of whom had taken part in a performative action during which we had collectively carried a silver birch felled by HS2 through the streets of the Coventry.
We gathered on Floyds Field in glorious Autumn sunshine to do two key things, the first: to lay down the Silver Birch tree and let it rot into the ground and support new life. The second: To plant the two radical sisters at the edge of a very young forest of native trees – close enough to connect via mycelium underground but far enough apart to grow to their full glorious size.
Alongside the practical work of the day, and with mud on our boots, came a song, food and tears. But a sense of satisfaction from planting these two saplings, representing Annie and Lettice, helped balance the sense of loss connected to the HS2 Silver Birch.
Now all we can do is hope that the radical sisters grow as strong as their ‘Mother Tree’.