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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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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