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A Walk in the Park – Part One – The Walled Garden

Near to us, a mere half hour drive away is situated the parkland of  a National Trust Property called Attingham Park, which is a place we often visit for an afternoon walk. The parkland affords us the opportunity of following different lengths of walk depending on the time we have and how fit we feel and of course on what the weather chooses to present us with. The parkland contains huge collections of trees and shrubs but few actual gardens, formal or naturalistic. It does however have the added element of a productive walled kitchen garden which the NT has lovingly and meticulously restored. So there is plenty to love about Attingham Park. We hope you will enjoy meeting the parkland and getting to understand its sense of place, or put more simply getting to know it like a new friend.

In 2017, rather than make monthly visits to a garden and reporting these visits in blog posts on a monthly basis we will visit Attingham Park each month of the year looking at both the Walled Garden and one of the walks. So there will be 2 posts featuring Attingham each month.

To help introduce you to Attingham Park we enjoyed a sunny day visit in November to take in an autumnal woodland walk and a quick exploration of the walled garden. Just a taster really for what we hope to share with you in 2017.

The Walled Garden


After a half mile simple level walk along a woodchip track we found the Walled Garden. To reach it we walked beneath giant hardwoods and softwoods, deciduous trees and evergreens from many parts of the world discovered and brought here by some of the great plant hunters.

A first glance through the mature gnarled tree giants highlighted the gardeners’  bothy  framed in low boughs almost parallel to the leaf littered ground. What a setting!

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The walled garden features restored glasshouses, bothy, gardeners’ stores and outbuildings as well as an orchard and the main productive vegetable borders.

The glasshouses looked magnificent wrapped up in their thick coats of fresh white paint. The yards around them were clear but we will see great changes throughout next year’s visits. Sugar mouse pink Nerine blooms provided neon strip of colour along the bases of the glasshouses.

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The orchard hosts rows of ancient fruit trees gnarled and their boughs leaning low to the ground. On this visit it was home to a “Remembrance Tree” and a collection of photographs of the staff “then and now”.

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Displays in the bothy showed the plants of the season, the pumpkins in all their orange glory and they also were used as parchment for messages written in them all about the garden in wartime.

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The garden staff and volunteers had grown cordon tomato plants up against the inner brick wall of the productive garden, Tomato Andine Cornue. They were “forcing” chickory and endive to sweeten them and here we discovered even more pumpkins.

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As we begin our Attingham monthly forays early in 2017 we will have a look at the main body of the productive walled garden.

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Tree of Remembrance

In the words of the children’s song, “If you go down to the woods today are in for a big surprise!” proved to be true this week when we went for a walk around the National Trust property, Attingham Park.

And we were! I shall share these few moments with you when we felt very emotional by this surprise awaiting us. The gardening staff had created a “remembrance tree” by decorating, very tastefully, an old gnarled apple tree in the orchard abutting the old walled garden. It was a very special, personal way for the current team of gardeners and volunteers to remember the gardeners who worked at Attingham Park walled garden when war broke out and sadly never returned.

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Dawdling in the Derbyshire Dales – part two – The Manifold Valley

As spring tries tentatively to make its presence felt in the garden and the surrounding countryside we can enjoy looking back to a week spent in Derbyshire exploring the Dales.

Our first walk along the dales of Derbyshire while spending a week there in July took us to the beautiful little village called Illam. This is a village owned by the National Trust so has to remain unspoiled. They also own the hall at the head of Manifold Dale, where we found our essential feature of any day out, a place for coffee and cakes.

Once revived we made our way down to the River Manifold and took a footpath along its bank to explore the valley it had created through millenia of erosion. The Manifold is very much typical of Derbyshire’s little rivers, clear running, home to rare and unusual wildlife and picturesque.

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The wildflowers and grasses on its banks

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Sadly even in such a beautiful, peaceful place humans try to spoil it, scarring it with discarded drinks cans and take out coffee cups.

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Beneath this rock stack was a spring where the water from an underground stream burst out into daylight to join the Manifold.

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The trail we were following took us a short distance from the river along an old walkway beneath overhanging trees. This walk was designed as a “promenade” for the family and visitors of the house when in its previous glory. We were bemused to hear a mechanical humming noise getting louder with each step as we neared an avenue of Limes. We eventually worked out it was the humming of thousands of bees attracted to the sweet smelling, lime-green blossom.

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We were surprised to discover a memorial stone and fern garden alongside the track.

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As the path turned us back towards the house leading us over open parkland away from the river. Please enjoy sharing the views we saw along the way with us.

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We found a rocky outcrop where we sat for a coffee and some fruit and to take in the sights and sounds of nature all around.

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After enjoying our break with brilliant views we carried on across the open parkland back towards the house and the views just kept on coming.

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We were delighted to have one last look at the River Manifold at the end of our walk where we were amazed by this waterside plant with spiky flowers and huge rough leaves.

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I shall finish this wandering post along the valley of the Manifold with this little mini-garden created by Mother Nature, the greatest gardener of all! Our next post in my series from Derbyshire will explore Monsal Dale.

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Furzey Gardens – a wonderful gardening community – Part One

Jude, The Undergardener, and I always love visiting community gardens to see what is going on. As we are Chairman and Secretary of a community garden, Bowbrook Allotment Community, we always appreciate everything our fellow community gardeners are achieving.

When in Hampshire we discovered that we were close to Furzey Gardens, run as a charitable trust and a very special community garden indeed, described as “A haven of peace and tranquility in the heart of the New Forest.”

We discovered this 10 acre garden created within woodland around a 16th Century forest cottage. It is a partnership between Furzey Gardens and the Minstead Training Trust. To find out more check out their respective websites, and .

We arrived at their car park where our progress into the car park was hindered by wandering pigs belonging to local commoners taking advantage of their “rights of pannage”. The signage looked promising. We soon came across a photograph of some of the garden’s volunteers and a shed where produce was sold.

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And once inside we discovered a lovely cafe and gallery run by some of the trust’s volunteers. This was to set the scene for the whole visit.

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The views from the table at which we enjoyed our coffee and cakes were certainly very encouraging. We set off with high expectations!

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We noticed within the outside seating area this huge table carved by a local wood sculptor from the trunk of a tree. It was hard to see how this was possible. But possible it was! In the picnic area we found another!

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We found more beautiful hand made furniture throughout the gardens.

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We soon discovered that this was a garden sporting some beautiful specimen trees and shrubs which in early autumn were performing a colourful show. The volunteers maintained the gardens and individual specimens to a very high standard. Above all a sense of peace pervaded every space and the volunteers we saw working looked full of contentment and displayed a great pride in their work.

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We loved this sign which faced us as we followed our pathway through the garden.

We love children but we also love plants!

Many of the plants at Furzey are old, rare and fragile.

So please don’t climb our trees or trample on the flowers.

Feel free to hop and skip along the paths

And follow the secret places map.”

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We moved on and the low autumn sunshine lit up the foliage all around like a massive stained glass window.

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We enjoyed having so much choice when it came to sitting resting and taking in the beauty of Furzey. Many benches were memorials of volunteers, clients and visitors who simply enjoyed the special nature of this place.


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After a break for tea and yet more cake we set off through the shrubs and trees to find the lake, a lake whose surface was cluttered with water lily leaves and its moist margins decorated by big-leaved plants and umbel seed heads.

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Throughout the walkways there were secret places for children to discover, “Fairy Houses” hidden low down and camouflaged.

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We shall find more of these little magic places in part two of our visit to Furzey, but I shall finish this first part by sharing with you one of the many thatched rustic garden buildings scattered throughout the gardens. The use of coloured glass leaves added magical light effects.

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Salisbury – a cathedral city

We hadn’t visited the city of Salisbury for many years so as we traveled down to Hampshire for a mid-week break we decided to drop off there on our way. We wondered if any memories were stirred up.

We wandered through the city following tourist signs which directed us to the cathedral. As we passed through the streets we tried to see if we remembered anywhere but it all seemed such a long time ago.

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We found the ancient stone gateway which led us to the Cathedral Close, a peaceful open grassed area where couples sat talking and individuals sat with a book or newspaper. A group of youngsters played a game of cricket appreciating all the freedom the space gave them.

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We wandered around the Close to gain views of the vast building and discovered the occasional piece of sculpture.

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The Cathedral in Salisbury is well known for two main features, the Magna Carta and its wonderfully preserved cloisters. When we walked around the four sides of the square Cloisters memories began to stir. We remembered this part of the building clearly.

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There were small reminders around the Cloisters about the importance of the Magna Carta. We loved this piece of calligraphy on the floor. “Responsibilty, Society, Change, Freedom, Justice, Liberty”. We found the historically important document itself carefully protected from the light and visitors’ fingers deep within the Cathedral building.

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The document itself was displayed in the Chapter House where a new display showed replicas of King John’s seal and a piece of vellum on a stretcher. When we saw the Magna Carta we were in total awe at being so close to possibly the most important document ever written. Our hearts skipped a beat! It was incredible to think that this document was written in 1215 and it was still in perfect condition.

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We loved this quotation from Franklin Roosevelt!

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The Chapter House which housed the Magna Carta was beautiful in its own right especially its vaulted ceiling. A Peppa Pig helium balloon had floated to the ceiling and added  a splash of colour, bright cerise pink! Jude was pleased to find a kneeler dedicated to St Jude!

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Wandering around the Cathedral we found many interesting artifacts  illustrating many centuries, including the world’s oldest surviving mechanical clock created in 1386 and a memorial plaque from the Burma Campaign.

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A much more recent and very eye-catching piece was this font designed by William Pye. It reflected the stained glass windows and produced a gentle sound of running water.

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The huge stone pillars in the nave were decorated with fabric hangings once again reflecting the thinking behind the Magna Carta. They said so much and also added great beauty and colour.

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Art work hung from the roof of the side aisle depicting the colours and falling leaves of autumn. They were fascinating and intensely beautiful, moving in the slightest breeze.

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Salisbury was so full of interest I will continue in part two.


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Walking the New Forest – part two

We will continue our walk where we left off at the end of part one of “Walking the New Forest”.

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We left the old Oak behind crossed a clearing and followed a pathway through Beech trees as we aimed for an old wooden gate.

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The gateway afforded us views of an open area with few trees and most of those were now of Birch, our native Betula pendula.

Ferns within the wooded area tended to be the Hard Fern variety but once out in the more open and much drier heathland the main ferns were our common Bracken. The Bracken was showing signs of changing into its autumn coat but the Hard Fern is an evergreen and keeps its leathery deep green coloured fronds.

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We took an indistinct path which led us diagonally towards a little wooden bridge which enabled us to cross a ditch. As we crossed wet muddy patches we found signs of life, bicycle tracks left by previous human visitors and prints of deer

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Crossing the footbridge we aimed for a distant stand of brightly coloured Silver Birches.

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Leaving the heathland behind we crossed over a gravel track that led to a forestry worker’s house and entered a new inclosure of forest. The trees here started off as a selection of mixed deciduous native trees, but before too long conifers crept in. Slowly these dark pines took over completely and we found ourselves walking in dark woodland. Little grew beneath these trees as they blocked out the sunlight. The fresh smell of our native broadleaves was replaced by a resinous aroma reminiscent of pine household cleaners. Less inviting a smell than the warming and welcome scents of our native broadleaves.

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The path we were following suddenly met a crossroads where a clearing allowed more light through to reach us and the forest floor. Foxgloves appeared both as first year rosettes of leaves preparing to flower next year and as seed heads, the remains of this years flowers and the promise of more Foxgloves to come.

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We looked up from the bench where we sat enjoying our coffee break and noticed the bright leaves of Sweet Chestnuts and beneath them we discovered their nuts, nut cases and fallen leaves. We were entertained by the loud noise of rutting stags roaring through trees and the gentler sounds of the diminutive Goldcrests high in the branches of the conifers.

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The final leg of our walk took us along forestry tracks through the conifers and then back into the brighter world of native deciduous trees.

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Just before finding the car park we passed alongside a line of huge conifers blown down in strong winds, a line of destruction.

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We really enjoyed our first experience of the world of the New Forest. We had plenty more planned for our break.

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Walking the Shrewsbury Battlefield – Part 2

Back at the site of the Battle of Shrewsbury we return to look more closely at the church and the sculptural tree. First though it might be a good idea to say a little about the battle itself. The Battle of Shrewsbury took place in 1403 just north of the town. Here two armies met in what was to be a ferocious and bloody battle. The rebel army of Sir Henry Percy, locally known as Harry Hotspur, met the Royal army of Henry IV on the land of the medieval Manor of Albright Hussey. There is now no sign of the village but there is a building known as the Albright Hussey which was built over a century after the battle in 1524. So many lives were lost during the battle that a memorial chapel was built in 1406 in their memory.

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This church is now known as St Mary Magdalene’s Church. Below is my photographic record of our visit to the church. We loved the detailing around the door knocker with its design based on a crown, and all the different gargoyles around the top of the building from which would originally have spouted rainwater.

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Inside the church we soon found its famous stained glass windows, but we were also drawn to the reed lamp holders and the oak carved figures on the ends of the pews.

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The ancient lych gate is looking worse for wear but its intricate carved detailing is still here to be enjoyed and appreciated, but I wonder for how much longer.

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Over 5000 men died in this battle and their remains lie in an unmarked mass grave below the churchyard. Some of the headstones found in the churchyard here are very simple and others show very stylised carving.

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When we finished looking around the church and its surroundings we made our way back along the footpaths around the site of the Battle Field. Half way back we spotted a pool in the middle of a field which still showed signs of medieval ridge and furrow farming patterns. Close to the hedge we saw a wonderfully sculptural old tree. The tree must have fallen years ago and has now lost its bark so was smooth in texture. This is Mother Nature at her most creative. Please enjoy looking at my photos of this natural piece of sculpture.


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The National Memorial Arboretum Part Two

We return in this second post about the National Memorial Arboretum where we left off.

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This was a quiet place, full of bird song and the quiet voices of the visitors deeply affected by the sense of the place.

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Seats to sit upon

to sit and think

to sit and to remember

lost ones.

Share now a few images of the place to show its variety, its beauty and its sadness.

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We walked slowly up a gentle sloping path giving us a spiral route to the “Armed Services Memorial” with a solemn “wall of names”. The sculptural pieces here were astonishing, powerful and thought provoking.

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Below, the sculpted hand indicates the place where a shaft of sunlight pierces two slits in two walls. They line up on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month each year the time when the First World War ended. It is the time the nation remembers each year the members of the armed forces lost serving their country.

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A massive curving wall has carved into it the names of all armed service personel who have died in service since the end of the Second Wall War. To see all these names together illustrates the futility of war so clearly. Worst of all was the huge area left blank as space for those yet to die. The United Nations should hold their meetings here and every Member of Parliament from every nation should spend some time here at the beginning of every session of their parliament. I wonder if it would make any difference?

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We found smaller memorials which were more specific and sometimes outside the realms of armed conflicts.

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The essential work of the Bevin Boys, the miners who kept the mines open during WW2 was celebrated in these wonderful relief carvings. Powerful just like the Bevin boys themselves.

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Men who lost their lives building the railways in the Far East as prisoners of war were commemorated by a garden of many varieties of Sorbus growing around reconstructed sections of railway lines.

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A few of the gardens help us remember the loss of lives of those serving the nation but not in the armed services. Here we celebrate the bravery of the men of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. A sturdy figure carved from stone reflects the strength of character of these people as he looks over a seaside landscape.

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One of the most incredible memorials was a tribute to the men of the railways.

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We even found a memorial to the soldiers from our home county of Shropshire.

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The Jewish Memorial was a truly beautiful piece of art as well as a moving memorial piece.

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As the light faded over the memorial arboretum the trees tops began to fill with the sounds of starlings settling down to roost. To the birds this garden is a home giving them shelter, food and a place to nest.

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I will leave you with a few deeply moving pictures.

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And finally a picture of the Bazra Wall to illustrate that we never learn. With all the waste of lives over the centuries it still goes on.

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Trees to remember by – The National Memorial Arboretum – Part One

Wendy, one of our allotment friends, told us all about her visit to the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield and she thought we would like to visit too.

I arrived with expectations. I envisioned a collection of trees with large areas given over to formal memorials. These areas I thought would have a cold atmosphere like an empty church and I felt the whole place would possess the deep silence of a “Poppy Day” remembrance ceremony around a village war memorial.

I was so wrong.

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It was an amazing place. But not a place to enjoy as such but a place with an atmosphere that you feel deeply. It was such an emotive and wonderful experience that emotions engulf you. It has a its own special atmosphere, an atmosphere that is hard to describe as the right words are impossible to find.

Close to the chapel near the entrance is a small garden with a beautiful armillary sundial at its centre, while the pillars holding up the covered entrance display a sense of homour in the carvings.

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We explored the site following avenues of acers and cherries leading to small wooded areas and copses mostly of native deciduous trees. A simple arrangement of closely trimmed berberis spheres form the Garden of Innocents.

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As we wander around please join us, as we appreciate the beauty of the trees and the calm of the spaces. There were signs of the recent Remembrance Day Ceremonies throughout the site, some at the base of memorials others blown into hedges and trees.

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Amongst the memorials dedicated to various sections of the armed forces were other memorials or areas of celebration. The photos below are of a golden garden dedicated to couples who had celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversaries. Trees had yellow fruit such as varieties of Malus or golden stems such as the Yellow Ash.

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The next memorial was for Polish servicemen who had lost their lives fighting alongside British armed forces.

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We moved on through woodlands showing autumn colouring interspersed with memorials until we came across a most disturbing area, called “Shot at Dawn”.

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This area was to help us remember the men shot at dawn by their own comrades under orders from commanding officers. We were deeply moved here as the cruelty of man at war and the needless waste of young lives were clearly displayed. How could officers in the First World War believe they had the right to order soldiers to kill their fellow men? The “crime” that these young soldiers were found guilty of was “cowardice” – surely they could be forgiven for fear and for not being willing to kill. The true cowardice here lies with the officers who used their rank and “superiority” to make others kill colleagues. Each post represents a real person and each post holds a small sign. Each post a brother, a son, a father, a best friend ……………..

This was a sad place!

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We left in silence and deep anger to find a way marker close by on a pathway crossing through the arboretum which acted as a reminder that we were in the National Forest.

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This unusual garden was dedicated to members of the Fairground Entertainers hence the horse from a “Gallopers” fairground ride.

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As we turned a corner I stopped in my tracks. We were facing a memorial with the badge I knew so well. As a child I remember seeing it on the front of my father’s army cap. My stomach felt empty and my heart skipped beats. Suddenly it seemed very close to home.

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My father survived the war but its effects could be seen hanging over him, the shaking hands, the sudden bouts of anger, changing temperament, the hatred of loud noise and the dislike of time wasting.

Next was the memorial to the paratroopers, a beautiful sculpture displaying strength and bravery.

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We shall continue our journey around the National Memorial Arboretum in my next post, but please share a few words we wrote as we sat quietly over coffee at lunchtime.

Peaceful place to celebrate waste

Lives wasted in war

Trees peacefully grow in lines 

Celebrating soldiers’ short lives

Trees giving hope for a future