Judi Dench fills garden with ‘memorial trees’ dedicated to dead actors including Alan Rickman and Helen McCrory

Judi Dench has a forest filled with “memorial trees” planted in remembrance of actors such as Alan Rickman and Helen McCrory.

In a forthcoming episode of Louis Theroux’s new interview series airing on Tuesday (1 November), the much-loved actor shows the presenter around the private forest that extends from the garden in her Surrey home.

In her grounds, the veteran actor has planted trees dedicated to friends and loved ones from throughout the industry who have died.

“This is Helen McCrory,” Dench explains, as a tree is shown with a slate tag attached bearing the late Peaky Blinders star’s name.

Theroux and Dench then see a tree labelled for Natasha Richardson, who died in 2009 after a skiing accident.

Other trees shown are dedicated to Diana Rigg, Stephen Sondheim, John Gielgud and Alan Rickman.

Asked how she began the tradition, Dench explained: “Well, I love them. I love trees and I just thought what a nice thing that would be to do.”

The tree dedicated to Dench’s husband Michael Williams, who died in 2001 of lung cancer,  is simply labelled “Mike”.

Dench said: “There’s Mikey. It’s a lovely tree, he liked it very much. We didn’t plant that one, that was here. It seems only right, as he found the house. I like that.”

While exploring Dench’s grounds, the pair also found a large statue of Queen Victoria that Dench took home from the 2017 film Victoria and Abdul, in which she played the monarch.

Theroux and Dench (BBC/Mindhouse)
Theroux and Dench (BBC/Mindhouse)

“They said to me, ‘Do you want her?’ I thought, no, well, not really. And then I thought, actually, I know a nice place for her,” Dench said. “So she came down here and she quite likes it there.”

Dench first discussed her “memorial trees” n a 2017 BBC documentary about her love of trees.

“It is about remembering, but it’s through a living thing, so you don’t remember them and stop,” she said. “The memory goes on, and gets more wonderful.”

The first episode of Louis Theroux Interviews… aired on Tuesday (25 October) and saw the journalist sit down with rapper Stormzy.

You can read The Independent’s review of the episode here.

Louis Theroux Interviews… continues Tuesday 1 November at 9.15pm on BBC Two.