Dedicated Winston Howes, 70, spent a week planting each oak sapling after his wife of 33 years Janet died suddenly 17 years ago.
He laid out the fledgling trees in a six-acre field but left a perfect heart shape in the middle - with the point facing in the direction of her childhood home. The labour of love has now blossomed into a mature meadow - a peaceful oasis where Winston can sit and remember his wife of 33 years.
His meadow cannot be seen from the road and has remained a family secret until a hot air balloonist took this photograph from the air.
Mr Howes said: “I came up with the idea of creating a heart in the clearing of the field after Janet died. I thought it was a great idea - it was a flash on 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.”
Mr Howes, who owns an 112-acre farm near Wickwar, South Gloucestershire, decided to seed housewife Janet’s legacy after she died from heart failure in 1995, aged 50. The pair got married in nearby Stroud in 1962. He created with the wood using small oak trees next to his farmhouse in the months after her death - marking out an acre-long heart with a large bushy hedge.
The entrance to the secret heart is only accessible from a track leading up to its tip.
Mr Howes said: “We got people in especially to do it - there are several thousand trees. We planted large oak trees around the edge of the heart then decided to put a hedge around it too. The heart points towards Wotton Hill, where Janet is from. 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. I also flew over it myself about five years ago.”
Mr Howes’s memorial was shown in all its glory after keen hot air balloonist Andy Collett, 42, from Wotton-Under-Edge, Glos., soared over the wood last week. The transport businessman could not believe his eyes when he discovered the symbol of love hidden among the trees.
He said: “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. It was a perfect heart hidden away from view - you would not know it was there. You can just imagine the love story.”