The National Memorial Arboretum

The National Memorial Arboretum was the subject of a talk given by Commander David Childs RN., Director of the National Arboretum Appeal on Tuesday 16th September 1977 in the Library. This imaginative project, which stemmed from a concern of the last Group Captain Cheshire VC of the need "to do something both lasting and positive to remember the sacrifice of so many in the wars of this Century", is being undertaken at Croxall just up the road from Lichfield.

Cmdr. Childs' modesty did not allow him to acknowledge that this is very much a story of one man's personal crusade to translate Leonard Cheshire's dream into reality. It is the story of the search for encouragement, support, and sponsorship from a wide range of interests. Crucial to the progress of the scheme was the decision by Redland Aggregates to lease, for 999 years at an annual rate of 1.00, 158 acres of land that had been used for the extraction of sand and gravel. How will this land be used?

It is impossible within the confines of the Civic Society Newsletter to do anything but give a brief outline of the developer's intentions. 62 Acres will be devoted to a lake and lakeside wildlife reserve to be managed by Redland. 82 acres will be planted with trees, shrubs and flowers in discrete areas to commemorate the different branches of the Armed Services, the Merchant Navy, the Police - "Bobby's Walk" - and many others. There will be a Lichfield Plot and an area for individuals to plant a tree "to celebrate a life". The choice of trees will reflect, as far as possible, the organisation which they represent - for example the Oak for the Royal Navy. It will be a working Arboretum in the sense that it will be a practical research establishment supervised by the Royal Horticultural Society.

The whole area will be open to the public to wander along the walkways and to enjoy the environment. Special attention will be paid to the needs of the disabled. There will be a visitor centre, a small chapel and conference facilities. It is a most exciting scheme which will attract visitors from far and wide. An impressive start has already been made on the site and it is hoped that the Arboretum will be formally opened in the year 2000.

Those who came to this well attended meeting were rewarded with a fascinating, entertaining and informative talk by Cmdr. Childs. It was one of those occasions when no-one wanted the evening to end.

Mike Tole
September 1997