Basingstoke Peace Garden blossoms in War Memorial Park
The Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane Cllr Seán Keating declared the community garden open for all to enjoy when he cut the ribbon on International Day of Peace.
Basingstoke MP Maria Miller, the Bishop of Basingstoke, the Right Reverend Canon David Williams, borough councillors and representatives from local community groups were among the guests who attended the official opening ceremony.
The Mayor said he was delighted to see the Peace Garden ready for local residents and visitors to enjoy as a serene space to rest and relax.
The Bishop welcomed the new addition to the beautiful town park and said he hoped it would provide an area for calm contemplation for many years to come, linking those who have worked for peace in the past with the people of Basingstoke and Deane today and their aspirations for peace in the future.
The project to create a haven of peace and reconciliation was started in 2014 at the time of commemorations for the start of the First World War. The aim was to create a space which would celebrate peace, to be opened in 2018, the centenary year of the end of that war.
The garden has been delivered by the Peace Garden Advisory Group, supported by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and local organisations.
A circular paved space, with a central metal sphere feature, pebble seats and benches, is surrounded by trees, foliage and flowers in the corner of the park close to the aviary.
Ten peace plaques, designed by local schoolchildren, are set into the ground in another circular area and a sculpted bust of plastic surgery pioneer Sir Harold Gillies, commissioned by the Rooksdown Club, is on a plinth in the border.
Sir Harold pioneered facial plastic surgery for wounded servicemen during the Second World War, having fought in the First World War, while based at Park Prewett Hospital, now Rooksdown.
Members of the Rooksdown Club, including patients of Sir Harold, as well as members of his family attended the ceremony to witness the unveiling of the bust by Dr Andrew Bamji, the official Sir Harold Gillies archivist.
The Mayor added: “I’m very proud to commemorate peace and to honour Sir Harold Gillies in this way.”
Some of the young peace plaque designers, who had to depict what peace meant to them in an art competition, were also at the event. The winners were Brooke Chambers, Lilly-Mae Culver, Lulu Brown, Nicola Kubiak, Casey-Lee Gould, Mika Eellmann-Houldsworth, Deanna Hoskins, Daisy Wheller, Emily Judge and Charlotte Vickers.
The Peace Garden has been funded with £40,000 from the borough council’s Local Infrastructure Fund, in addition to £23,667 from developer contributions. The Rooksdown Club donated £12,605, including paying for the pebble seats, and commissioned the bust.
John Lewis Partnership donated £885 through its Community Matters scheme after customers of the Basingstoke store voted for their favourite community project.
Work to prepare for the tree planting was donated by Gristwood and Toms Arboriculture Ltd and the planting of the birch trees and hedging was sponsored by Kieron Beattie Landscapes, with the hedging being supplied and planted by Living Walls. Stephen and Ruth Evans donated and planted snowdrops, daffodils and primroses under the birch trees.
Wildflower Turf Ltd supplied the wildflower meadow areas and the Pebble Seats were created and supplied by Barrell Sculpture Ltd. Woodscape Ltd supplied the curved timber seating and feature entrance cube, and Rocon Contractors Ltd constructed the garden, laying the paving and installing all of the features. The remaining plants for the garden were sourced from Mencap Greenfingers Nursery in South Ham and Hortus Loci.
Donations were also received from Basingstoke Heritage Society, Pip and Eileen Iles, Basingstoke Veterans Society, Debbie Reavell, Tammy Lake and Judy Brown.
Peace Garden Advisory Group chairman Pip Iles said: “It is very exciting to see the Basingstoke Peace Garden finally open and ready to provide local visitors to the park with a place for stillness and calm.
“War Memorial Park is a perfect setting for this community garden and everybody who has been involved in the project hopes that borough residents and visitors will enjoy it.
“Thank you to everybody who has supported the project.”
To find out more, visit https://www.basingstoke.gov.uk/peacegarden or the Peace Garden on Facebook @bstokepeacegarden