It is with great sadness that we share the news that the wonderful long-standing Walsall Tree Warden Coordinator Jackie Cocken passed away on 17 March 2020 after a short illness.
Jackie became one of the first Tree Wardens for Walsall when The Tree Council set up a network there in 2007. Back then, Jackie and her long-time friend and colleague Jo Lester had both recently retired from teaching when they met Ian McDermott, the Chief Arboriculturalist for Walsall at the time. He inspired them about the world of trees and insisted that they would make excellent Tree Wardens… Jackie and Jo soon signed up and have never looked back, being a remarkable positive force for trees in Walsall ever since.
Jackie coordinated countless tree planting projects in parks and school grounds across Walsall. Working with Jo, she was instrumental in making a great success out of every event. She made everyone feel welcome, organised everything from refreshments to publicity and fundraising and made sure the job got done whatever the weather. One of their proudest moments was when Jackie managed to convince volunteers and local school children to wade through the snow to plant an orchard of 240 heritage fruit trees during a time when the UK was beset by blizzards! Theirs was the only planting project to go ahead across the whole country. These fruit trees have gone from strength-to-strength and produce a healthy crop every year, which enables the Tree Wardens to celebrate Apple Day annually with local school children and residents.
Much of Jackie and Jo’s collective work has focused on engaging and inspiring children and many of the children they have worked with have become Young Tree Wardens – a powerful legacy for the future of Walsall’s trees.
We were fortunate to spend time with Jackie at the Midlands Regional Tree Warden Forum a few months ago, and in January of this year, Jackie and Jo coordinated a project to plant 40 more much-needed street trees in Walsall.
Jo said of her long-time friend and partner, “our motto has always been ‘let’s be positive, and let’s do something’. [Jackie’s] contribution to trees is phenomenal and Walsall is a much greener place thanks to her dedication.”
Margaret Lipscombe, who worked closely with Jackie during her time at The Tree Council, shared this reflection; “Jackie was a wonderful champion for everything related to trees and nature in Walsall. I loved working with her – she always made me feel very special and welcome at all the events we did with the Walsall Tree Warden group. She had a way of gathering people together and getting the best out of them.”
Jackie’s funeral will take place in March but due to the current restrictions, only close family will attend. Her husband Mike and Jo hope to organise the planting of a copse and wildflowers in her honour at the Orchard this autumn. “This is what would have made Jackie most happy” says Jo.
The Tree Council wants to take this opportunity to honour Jackie Cocken for her inspirational commitment and contribution to trees and tree wardening. Our thoughts are with all her family and friends at this sad time.