National Memorial Arboretum
We met at 10am, a bright sunny morning, though still a coolish breeze. The Arboretum was already quite busy with Royal Military Police in red caps and Cyprus veterans. There were even three Chelsea Pensioners!
Beginning in the Chapel, we heard the recorded voice of Kate Adie explain the origin of the two minute silence. After the silence, we began our themed walk. At each place on our route, we paused while Randie Cush, the Education Coordinator told us a little of the story behind the tree or memorial. We reflected and discussed the underlying symbolism, whether that was the species of tree planted, the colour of flowers, or the depiction of a sculpture. For example, the War Widows' Garden is planted with rose bushes, the colours of the blooms selected to symbolise the different stages of grief.
Although the day focused on significant and thought provoking issues, it was not all doom and gloom, there were lighter moments too. Walking down The Beat, an area lined with chestnut trees (the wood originally used for making truncheons) where police officers and constabularies are remembered, Randie told us that there was some debate whether The Beat, should be named, "Let's be Avenue"!
Phil Leivers said:
"I had been wanting to visit the NMA for a long time and I am so grateful to Sharon for organising this REC walk. The whole experience was sad, reflective, celebratory, joyful, and memorable. I had not realised that there are memorials which are not solely military based. This adds another powerful dimension to the visit. There is a lot to see and take in, but the site is spacious and allows one to ponder and reflect. The Staffordshire countryside adds to the peacefulness. I recommend everyone to go, not just because of its possible resource implications in the classroom, but for one's own remembrance. The memorial to those Shot at Dawn will live long with me."
Lizzie and James McWhirter said:
"So glad we made the pilgrimage which was something of a revelation. We explored the various stations of prayer and sacred spaces along the way, such as The Quaker Memorial, with an excellent guide and companions on the journey.
At the end of our day, at The Armed Forces Memorial, it was poignant to read the names of those, killed in action, who made their sacrifice for Queen and country."
It would take far too many words to describe our trail. It is a place to be experienced, not read about. Perhaps this 3 minute film may give a flavour and encourage you to visit yourself.