Man planted thousands of trees to honor his dead wife, but it was only 17 years later that people discovered his secret

July 22, 2017 10:17 am Last Updated: July 22, 2017 10:17 am

Winston and Janet Howes had been married for 33 years when Janet died suddenly from heart failure.

A few months later, the British farmer had a sudden thought to create a sort of memorial in her name.

“I thought it was a great idea—it was a flash of inspiration—and I planted several thousand oak trees,” he told Telegraph UK.

Howes owns 112-acres of farmland, and began planting oak saplings every week. Then he brought in people specifically to help with this project. After a few months, he’d created the beginnings of a forest of 6,000 oaks.

But it wasn’t until 17 years later, with the trees grown to a considerable size, that anyone realized what it was he’d done.

Andy Collett, a hot air balloonist, was in for a surprise when he flew over the field.

“I have my own balloon and am quite a regular flyer – but this was the most amazing sight I have ever seen from the sky.”

“It was a perfect heart hidden away from view—you would not know it was there,” he said.

“You can just imagine the love story.” So he snapped a photo and brought the story to a newspaper.

Howes had planned to put a heart in the center of the 6-acre forest from the very beginning, with the tip of it pointing toward Wotton Hill, which was Janet’s childhood home.

The memorial is so large it cannot be fully seen from the road—only in the air. The only entrance to it is a discrete track leading to the tip of the heart. Inside, there is a garden of daffodils that bloom in the spring.

“I go out there from time to time and sit in the seat I created,” Howes said.

“I also flew over it myself about five years ago,” he told a paper in 2012.