Whether It was prompted by the many memorials and remembrance services seen in 2014 but a sudden decision took my husband and I on a 2 1/2 hour drive to Staffordshire and the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. Driving from Surrey using motorways was no major problem until we neared our destination. The signage for the Arboretum was very poor and greatly needs improving. However we arrived safely and had a very interesting visit.
The initial impression of the National Arboretum is of a space, lots of it! Then trees, dominated by the large main memorial. As it is such a vast space we chose to take a guided walk that took us to the main parts. If we had had longer time we would have made our own way around the area guided by the well documented guide books available at the visitor centre. There was also a motorized train that took the less agile. However this seemed to give a very limited tour with a canned commentary – no opportunity to ask questions and discuss the various areas which we enjoyed so much with the guide who hosted us on our tour!
The memorials were spaced well apart – so good walking shoes are recommended. We walked with our guide and a small group of about 12 around those memorials he felt that most people wanted to view and others that one was not necessarily aware of. One of the most poignant was the "Shot at Dawn Memorial" commemorating 306 soldiers executed in World War 1 for cowardice and desertion. Some of the stories our guide recounted were tragic. Another memorial which was unusual was to the animals that have in the wars served our country so well. Then the Basra Memorial Wall which was dismantled and re-erected in memory of the Fallen in the Iraq War – it will soon be joined by the memorial wall from Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. So many and some so sad, yet wonderful that we have somewhere to remember such sacrifices made for our country.
A lot of memorials – all so unique and interesting, this place will require many visits to see them all. They are all dominated by the beautiful National Memorial located on a hillock overlooking the surrounding woodlands. The guide saved this one for last and then after explaining the details of it's evolvement, and the significance of the various sculptures left us to wander around acquainting ourselves with the beauty of the whole concept. The vision of David Childs in 1988 has come to fruition with this magnificent building. Description does not do it justice you have to see it to understand it's significance. Lee Rigsby's name lies amongst the many on this monument.
The trees are mainly young and I feel that in another 10 years their maturity will make the area even more beautiful. However I would hate to be the gardeners in the autumn – the leaves!!!!
The central location of this site makes it accessible to a lot of people. Do visit, revere the sacrifices that have been made and support this beautiful treasure! It is so very worth it!