Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day
by Laura Storey
LAURA STOREY TALKS TO STONEMASON CHRIS SWALES ON ENGRAVING CAPTAIN TOM’S LASTING LEGACY AT KEIGHLEY’S MEMORIAL WOODLAND
During the height of the pandemic, army veteran Captain Sir Tom Moore raised nearly £33 million for the NHS by walking a 100 laps of his garden shortly before his own 100th birthday. It was a light of hope in a dark time, and his remarkable story caught the attention of the nation.
In honour of his lasting legacy, 17 acres of ancient woodland and open ground close to Captain Tom’s childhood home on the outskirts of Keighley, West Yorkshire has been renamed ‘Captain Tom’s Memorial Woodland’ and extended in honour of the centenarian charity fundraiser. 4,500 trees and hedgerows were planted, along with 101 large trees.
The Memorial Wood is part of the Trees for Tom initiative, which aims to celebrate Captain Tom’s legacy through the planting of trees. It is a collaboration between the Woodland Trust in the UK and global reforestation charity TreeSisters.org, with an aim to plant trees in the UK and eight other countries around the world, including India, where Captain Sir Tom served in the Second World War.
“I thought what Captain Tom did was brilliant,” Chris Swales says. Chris is a master stonemason and was selected to design the curved benches that sit at the focal point of the Memorial Woodland. “It felt good to be chosen. It’s a great way to remember such a wonderful man. It was a big thing and I enjoyed doing it.”
The 38-year-old opened his business ‘Swales In The Dales’ in 2005 and since then his work has become renowned all over Yorkshire and Lancashire. “Ever since being a young boy, I had enjoyed walking around Skipton and viewing the wonderful stone buildings.” Chris recalls, “This is where my passion for Yorkshire stone came from.”
After taking a course in stone-carving, Chris purchased a set of expensive tungsten carbide chisels. Originally, he’d wanted to undertake further training but with no more courses on offer, his tutor suggested the best way to learn would be for Chris to visit his local stone yard.
“I asked for some offcuts which I could then carve. Practise makes perfection! I produced many small carvings for friends and family and as time went by I started picking up orders.
“Typical jobs I carry out are handcarved date stones commemorating when the houses were built, house names and numbers. I also have a sound reputation for replacing old weather-damaged stone million windows and other interesting stone repair jobs.”
Chris’s passion for stonemasonry is clearly reflected in his work for the Memorial Woodland, he spent three weeks perfecting the benches before they were unveiled at the opening ceremony of the Woodland on the 22nd March this year. “I wasn’t nervous,” Chris smiles. And of course, he didn’t need to be. Applause rang out as Captain Tom’s daughter Lucy and the Mayor of Keighley Julie Adams revealed the bench to waiting press and the public.
The beautifully engraved bench looks out over the meadow with Captain Tom’s famous motto – ‘Tomorrow will be a good day.’ The quote is a fitting one, with the planting of trees helping to combat the climate crisis and providing a greener, healthier world for future generations.
The Woodland Trust wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees and Chris has worked them previously in 2017, when he was approached by Hazel, the Woodlands Trust Manager of Skipton Castle Woods, where he himself had spent his childhood.
“They built a semi-circular stone seating area in the middle of the woods which walkers and schools used when visiting. The manager told me that some people were damaging parts of this ancient woodland and in an attempt to deter them she had written a poem urging visitors to loo after the trees and shrubs in the beautiful, historic woodland.” Chris grins. “Her inspiring words read:
“Rest your feet for a while
in the company of trees.
Hear the oak, ash and hornbeam
talk in the breeze.
Take heed of the whispers
of trees from the past.
Always treasure this wood
long may it last.”
The idea of looking after the natural world runs through Chris’s work. His projects with the Woodland Trust, both in Skipton Castle and the new Captain Tom’s Memorial Woodland will hopefully inspire people to appreciate their local green spaces, take better care of nature and get involved with efforts to combat climate change to help ensure Captain Tom’s motto – ‘Tomorrow will be a good day.’
NorthernLife May/June 2022