Winston and Janet Howes were married in the British town of Stroud in 1962. They lived together happily in South Gloucestershire for many years as farmers raising a family. That was until disaster struck in 1995 when Janet died of heart failure after 33 blissful years of marriage. She was only 50 years old.
It was then that Mr. Howes decided to create a beautiful tribute to the love of his life. It was a well-kept secret until a hot air balloon flew over it in 2012 and the balloonist noticed artistically arranged trees. Keen hot air balloonist Andy Collett, 42, from Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire, was on one of his regular balloon flights in July 2012, when he noticed the grand romantic gesture hidden in the middle of the six-acre field. He said, speaking to the Telegraph: ‘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.’ He couldn’t believe what he was seeing, continuing ‘It was a perfect heart hidden away from view – you would not know it was there.’ The sweet tribute can only be seen from an aerial view, so it’s no wonder it was a hidden gem of the Gloucestershire countryside for 17 years.
Thousands of Trees
Mr. Howes’ idea was to create a place where he and his son could visit on difficult days when the loss of their wife and mother became all too much. Speaking of his plan, he said ‘I thought it was a great idea – it was a flash of inspiration – and I planted several thousand oak trees.’ He used the trees to mark out an acre-long heart surrounded by a large hedge. Despite being right next to a road, the hedge kept it secluded and hidden from ground view.
Mr. Howes owns a 112-acre farm near Wickwar, South Gloucestershire. He decided to plant housewife Janet’s legacy after she died over twenty years ago. ‘We got people in especially to do it – there are several thousand trees.’ he said of the huge project. ‘We planted large oak trees around the edge of the heart then decided to put a hedge around it too.’ Once it was completed they decided to put a seat in the field overlooking the hill near where Janet lived. The heart-shaped secret meadow is only accessible via a path originating at the bottom of the heart which points towards the town where Janet was born. ‘I sometimes go down there, just to sit and think about things.’ said Mr. Howes.
For a final romantic touch, Mr. Howes commented ‘We plant daffodils in the middle that come up in the spring – it looks great. I go out there from time to time and sit in the seat I created.’ In 2012 Mr. Howes said, ‘I also flew over it myself about five years ago’ allowing him a private viewing of his creation before it became famous. In the words of Andy Collett, ‘you can just imagine the love story’ behind creating such a beautiful tribute to a spouse.