Kew's Tony Kirkham plans trail of oaks stretching from Shropshire to London Olympic site

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew head of arboretum Tony Kirkham is planning for school children to plant a trail of oaks from Shropshire to London for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Three years ago, pupils from William Brookes School in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, collected acorns from a famous tree linked to the Olympics. It was planted by the founding father of the modern games, Pierre de Coubertin, on a visit to Much Wenlock in 1890.

De Coubertin's inspiration can be traced back to a British doctor, William Penny Brookes, who held the first Much Wenlock "Olympian Games" in 1850. It was after his visit to the area in 1890 that the Frenchman was inspired to stage the first Olympics of the modern era in Athens in 1896.

Kirkham is growing 50 de Coubertin oak trees from the acorns that were collected by the school children. He explained that they will be planted in school playgrounds along the route between Much Wenlock and the east London Olympic site.

He added that a celebrity such as Lord Coe may plant the tree at the Olympics.

Kirkham said a tree may be used at the RHS Olympic garden, which Ludlow MP Philip Dunne helped launch last month.

He added that he expects a fanfare for the millionth visitor to the Xstrata-sponsored tree-top walkway in Kew gardens. More than 906,000 visitors have used the attraction, with the millionth expected in spring.

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