Most families have a secret of some kind. From a secret tomato sauce recipe to the more nefarious skeletons in the closet, there are countless stories that never end up being revealed to the next generation.
One hot air balloon operator discovered Winston Howes’ family secret, and it’s so touching that the story has been going viral.
Winston Howes married the love of his life, Janet, in Shroud, South Gloucestershire in 1962. They lived happily on Winston’s farm where they raised their family.
But in 1995, tragedy struck. Janet Howes passed away suddenly from heart failure, leaving Winston a heartbroken widower.
As he grieved her loss, Winston had a remarkable idea. He decided to clear an area of their family farm and plant many, many oak trees in Janet’s honor.
“I thought it was a great idea – it was a flash of inspiration – and I planted several thousand oak trees. Once it was completed we put seat in the field, overlooking the hill near where she used to live. I sometimes go down there, just to sit and think about things. It is a lovely and lasting tribute to her which will be here for years,” he says. (1)
Janet’s oak forest grew in peace for over thirty years- from small seedlings to gorgeous mature trees, with only the loved ones she left behind around to admire it.
Until, that is, 42-year-old Andy Collett of Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire soared over the forest in his hot air balloon. “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,” says Andy.
What he discovered was that Winston had left a heart-shaped meadow in the forest he planted for Janet. “It was a perfect heart hidden away from view – you would not know it was there. You can just imagine the love story,” Andy says.
Indeed, Winston had carved out an acre-long heart-shaped space and lined it with hedges, right in the middle of the oak trees. The tip of the heart points to Wotton Hill, which was Janet’s original home.
In the springtime, the meadow is filled with vibrant daffodils, which Winston planted in Janet’s meadow.
It’s amazing to think that if Andy hadn’t accidentally discovered the Howes’ family secret, we might have never found an explanation for the ever-growing symbol of love that he shared with his wife!
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