Tributes paid to pioneering Calderdale tree planting campaigner and former Hebden Bridge Trades Club president after her death from cancer

Tributes have been paid at two public meetings to a lifelong climate activist who played a major role in tree-planting in Calderdale.
Dongria Kondh, also known as Penny Eastwood, was a tree planting campaignerDongria Kondh, also known as Penny Eastwood, was a tree planting campaigner
Dongria Kondh, also known as Penny Eastwood, was a tree planting campaigner

Dongria Kondh, also known as Penny Eastwood, died from cancer in June at the age of 65 and a socially distanced gathering is being held in Hebden Bridge on Saturday July 10, following her funeral.

The former Hebden Bridge Trades Club president had lived in the Calder Valley since 1987, when her then-partner took a job at Calrec Audio and she began studying at Bradford University. She raised her children in Hebden Bridge. She was brought up herself in the south of England and has spoken of discovering alternative culture when visiting Glastonbury Tor while at boarding school in Somerset.

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The campaigner was the founder, in 1998, of Treesponsibility and more recently The Source Partnership, which brings together a wide range of partners including community groups and government organisations to promote natural flood management techniques to combat the effects of climate change.

This week Calderdale Council’s Cabinet adopted White Rose Forest canopy tree planting targets for Calderdale and members agreed the council should promote an ambition for a 18.73 per cent tree canopy cover target by 2050, helping to address the climate crisis.

Cabinet member for Climate Change and Resilience, Coun Scott Patient said it was an appropriate moment to remember Dongria, who was responsible for planting hundreds of thousands of trees across Calderdale.

The importance of looking after Calderdale’s enviornment had been shown by the pandemic - there had never been a better time to create more forest, bringing health and wellbeing benefits and protecting Calderdale’s wildlife for years to come, he said.

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“We need to make sure that not just the council that delivers on this but also private landowners, as Dongria did,” he said.

This will be achieved through identifying suitable council land to plant trees on, and through landowner engagement across Calderdale to support tree planting on land in private ownership, including working with key agencies.

It was right to set a “bold and ambitious” target, said Coun Patient.

At Calderdale Flood Recovery and Resilience Programme Board, Yorkshire Water’s Granville Davies said Dongria had played an active role in developing methods now being used to help mitigate the impact of climate change which had increasingly exhibited itself through severe flooding in Calderdale.

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“She was someone very much engaged, pioneering natural flood management in the Calder Valley, a founder member of Treesponsibility and an active member of the natural flood management group,” he said.

Beyond this, she had campained on broader green, environmental and social issues, said Mr Davies.

“I wanted to mention her, remember her and acknowledge the contributions she has made to communities in the upper valley,” he said.

Leader of Calderdale Council, Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town), chairing the meeting, said he endorsed Mr Davies’s comments.

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Penny began using the name Dongria Kondh some years ago in support of an Indian community threatened by mining.

A Dongria Kondh Bursary for natural flood management has been set up in conjunction with the University of Leeds and in the autumn a memorial tree planting weekend is being organised in Hebden Bridge.