Saturday 29th June was Armed Forces Day (AFD), a day to show support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community in Herefordshire. This year’s AFD was particularly special because it also marked one hundred years on from the official end of the First World War, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.
As part of the AFD celebrations a commemorative woodland at Queenswood was opened and dedicated as a memorial to the First World War. Queenswood was chosen for this poignant memorial over two years ago by the former First World War Commemoration Committee that held events across the county to mark the centenary of the First World War.
What a day it was, the sun shone as a crowd witnessed the dedication ceremony carried out by the Reverend Paul Roberts CF and Rt Reverend Richard Frith, Bishop of Hereford in the presence of the Dowager Countess of Darnley, CVO., JP, the Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire, Her Majesty The Queen’s personal representative in the county.
Not only is Queenswood now home to the commemorative woodland but also to a new artwork that sits within it. The artist behind the work is Des Hughes, a renowned sculptor who has previously exhibited at The Hepworth, Wakefield and Nottingham Contemporary and has work in the Arts Council Collection. For this unique artwork, Hughes designed a planting scheme that has seen twenty-five red oak trees planted in concentric circles moving out from a central oak tree stump.
A circle of benches surrounds the central tree stump – created using timber from trees that were felled to ensure the newly planted red oaks will receive enough light to grow – a copper plaque elegantly placed on top, also created by Hughes.
It is a little-known fact that Queenswood was clear felled during the First World War to provide timber for the war effort, the felling of several trees within this small section of the woodland at Queenswood has allowed us to share this important historical link with the war. Groups of primary school children are already using the commemorative woodland space for educational trips and leaving the tree stumps visible within the woodland helps to bring this interesting history to life.
Hughes has created a living artwork that will grow and change over time and will serve as a reminder of the impact the Great War had on families, communities and landscapes.
Rose Farrington, Queenswood Heritage Gateway Project Officer