As the first anniversary of the Covid-19 pandemic draws near, First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed that plans are in place to commemorate all those who have passed away as a result of coronavirus with the planting of two new woodlands, one in North Wales and one in South Wales.

The woodlands, which will be installed by Natural Resources Wales at locations that have yet to be confirmed, are intended to offer a symbol of Wales’ resilience during the pandemic, and to also represent regeneration and renewal as they grow over time.

It is hoped that they will become places of commemoration where people can gather to remember lost friends, family, neighbours, colleagues and more.

With Tuesday 23 March 2021 designated as a National Day of Reflection, a number of other commemorative events have been arranged.

Residents of Bridgend County Borough are being encouraged to participate in a national one-minute silence which is set to be held at 12noon.

Then, at 8pm, householders will be able to stand at their doorsteps and shine phones, candles and torches into the night sky to help create a nationwide ‘beacon of remembrance’.

As part of this event, the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl will also be illuminated with yellow light – one of several iconic Welsh landmarks that have been specially chosen to take part in the commemoration.

The Leader, Cllr Huw David said: “On Tuesday 23 March, it will have been a year to the day since the Prime Minister informed the United Kingdom that people should stay at home, and that most businesses should close.

“At that time, few could have imagined that such a huge number of people would tragically lose their lives to the coronavirus pandemic.

“These national and local events are a way for us all to come together, contemplate all that has taken place since then, and to remember those who are sadly no longer with us.

“It is also an opportunity to thank the essential workers who have helped to keep vital services running throughout this crisis, and have ensured that the most vulnerable members of the community have remained safe and well.

“More than 50,000 local residents have now been vaccinated against Covid-19, and we are at last seeing some much-needed light at the end of the tunnel.

“However, it remains absolutely crucial for communities throughout Bridgend County Borough to keep their guard up, and to ensure that we keep following the rules in order to prevent the coronavirus from making a resurgence and spreading further.

“For some, this anniversary will be an extremely difficult milestone, but no one should feel that they have to face it alone. A wide range of support is always available, and I would urge anyone who may be struggling to make use of services designed to look after your well-being and mental health.

“I hope that the people of Bridgend County Borough will take part in the commemorative activities on 23 March, and that you will join us as we remember those who have passed away even as we look to whatever the future may bring.”

Richard Hughes, Chief Executive of Awen which runs the Grand Pavilion on behalf of Bridgend County Borough Council, added: “We are proud to play our role in remembering the precious lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic over the past year.

“As the light of the Grand Pavilion shines into the darkness on 23 March, we ask you to pause and pay tribute to all those who have tragically died, and the families, friends and colleagues who have been sadly affected as a result.”

A range of local organisations are available to support local residents with their mental health and well-being.

Assisting Recovery in the Community (ARC) provides practical advice, guidance and structured support. Advice is available between 9am – 4.30pm, Monday to Friday – call 01656 763176 or email ARCInformationandAdvice@bridgend.gov.uk for more details.

The Bridgend Association of Voluntary Organisations can point residents towards further support and information – visit www.bavo.org.uk/get-help/covid-19/ to find out more.

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board also has a website which offers links to mental health organisations as well as resources about well-being, bereavement and much more – you can find further details at the Community Support Hub webpage.