Henley welcomed the Slovenian Ambassador on Friday (25 March) to see the traditional Slovenian Hayrack in Gillotts Field, along with the newly gifted linden tree. The hayrack was donated by the British-Slovene Society to support and promote the town’s twinning with Bled, Slovenia, whilst the tree was recently gifted by the Slovenian Embassy in London to celebrate Slovenia-UK Friendship Day.
Simona Leskovar, Slovenian Ambassador to the UK, was joined by Darja Golež, Deputy Head and Špela Vrbnjak, Cultural Attaché, for an informal meeting with Henley Mayor Sarah Miller at the Town Hall. The group were then met at Gillotts Field by other members of the Embassy’s team, representatives of the British-Slovene Society, and representatives from Henley Town Council, in order to view the hayrack and the linden tree.
The hayrack was donated to Henley by the British-Slovene Society in recognition of the town’s twinning relationship with Bled, which was established in 2013. The hayrack, traditionally known as a kozolec, was installed in Gillotts Field at the end of January by four Slovenian craftsmen, who travelled to Henley specifically to construct it. One of the four craftsmen was Damjan Bajc, who designed and built the hayrack in his workshop in Slovenia. Traditional hayracks, such as the one we have in Gillotts field, can be seen across Slovenia and are a unique feature of its culture. In the UK, however, they are a rarity, with Henley’s hayrack being one of only two in the country.
Linden trees have also had profound significance to the Slovenian people for centuries, and could once be found in nearly every village. The linden tree planted by the hayrack was donated by Slovenian Embassy in London as a celebration of Slovenia-UK Friendship Day. The occasion also overlaps with the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative — a tree planting initiative created to mark the Platinum Jubilee — and the Bee Forage Planting Day — a Slovenian initiative aimed at increasing number of bee forage trees, usually celebrated on 26 March.
At the hayrack on Friday, Henley Mayor Sarah Miller said, “I want to say a big thank you to Simona and members of the Slovenian Embassy and also representatives from the British-Slovene Society for coming to Henley on this beautiful spring day to finally see the hayrack in all its glory here in Gillotts Field. As you can see, it does look perfect here, and we look forward to welcoming the British-Slovene Society and anyone that wants to join us in the summer for a picnic around the hayrack.
“We’ve really enjoyed working together so that the hayrack brings maximum benefit to the British-Slovene Society, Henley Town Council and Henley’s twinning with Bled, and of course anybody else who comes to the field. I’d like to personally thank the Slovenian Embassy in London for the gift of the linden tree to the people of Henley on Thames to celebrate Slovenia-UK friendship day.
“I’m delighted that the linden tree has been planted next to the hayrack to support and promote the town’s twinning with Bled in Slovenia. Thank you for coming today. Henley very much values your friendship and continued support, and we look forward to continuing this.”
Simona Leskovar said, “I wanted to say thank you for your hospitality, and also to appreciate what you are doing twinning with Bled, and cooperating with the British-Slovene Society in putting this hayrack here, and accepting our gift. I assure you that we will come and water it regularly. It will grow, and one day this will be a big tree as our friendship is big. They will grow together, and I am very much looking forward as I said earlier. We are nourishing, cherishing this people-to-people contact. You are twinned with Bled, but I feel that all Slovenia can be here and can be friends with Henley and other parts of your beautiful country.”
Simona finished her speech by saying, “To the friendship and to many more visits like this — ours here and yours to Slovenia, to Bled. Slovenia is a place to go. The only country in the world with ‘love’ in its name.”