The Friends of Willenhall Memorial Park, who work in partnership with Walsall Council, are celebrating after receiving a Cory Environmental grant of £50,000 to support a Heritage and Habitats project at Willenhall Memorial Park.
The project will focus on the heritage and habitats of the park through the creation of a new heritage trail, new borders, and the creation of a Memorial Garden with bespoke artwork, which will be dedicated to soldiers who created the park during the 1920s. Other access improvements will take place around the pavilion and bowling green.
Local craftsmen including artists Planet Art, horticulturalists Roots to Fruit, garden designer Darren Rudge Landscapes and Chain Saw Artist Robot Cossey, will be carrying out the work during the next few months, with the Memorial Garden being completed in Spring 2018. The garden will complement a commemoration day which is currently being planned as part of the park’s Heritage Lottery Funded ‘First World War; then and now’ project, which aims to research the stories of the soldiers who returned from WW1 to create the park. Roots to Fruit, a local social enterprise are currently completing the first stage of the project, which includes gardening activities with volunteers from the local community.
Councillor Chris Jones, Portfolio Holder for Clean and Green said:
“We are delighted to have secured the best of Walsall’s local artists and garden designers to create some very special features in Willenhall Memorial Park. The project will support all the WW1 activities which are taking place in the next 12 months, with our special commemorative event being planned for summer 2018.”
“The new heritage trail will provide a great activity to support the health and well being of our communities, as the trail of six sculptures will take users on a walking trail around the park.”
The Friends group is asking for the people of Willenhall to have a look in their lofts for photographs, newspaper clippings, documents, letters and photos of keepsakes, as well as family tales passed down to find the names of the veterans.
With help from Walsall Local History Centre and Planet Art, the information gathered will be digitally recorded and published online. Artists will work with local schools to explore stories and display the 2,000 poppies which have been created by the park’s community and which will form a permanent display. Other displays and art work will be produced around the Park and in the Pavilion, along with a new Memorial Garden which is planned for 2018.
The first Heritage Event will take place on Saturday 18 November, at Willenhall Library, Walsall Street, between 10am and 2pm. Come along to hear about the project and share stories, particularly if your family member helped create the park. An expert historian will be on hand to help people trace family members and discuss family history as well as Planet Art, who will be working on the poppy soldier. Willenhall History Group and Willenhall Heritage Trust will also be at the event.
There will be other events during part of this commemoration year. The project will be promoted at the Willenhall Town Centre Christmas Event on Saturday 2 December in the Market Place. The Friends of Willenhall Memorial Park welcomes the community to take part in their poppy project and asks that local people come along to the café in the pavilion on Wednesday mornings, where knitting materials and patterns are available. They will also be creating a ‘National Kitchen’ in the park in 2018 to replicate how community kitchens were set up during WW1 to support the nation’s diet.
Alan Wood, Chair of the Friends of Willenhall Memorial Park group said:
“The funding provided for this project by Cory Environmental Trust Britain is hugely appreciated. We have already benefited from the border renovations that Roots to Fruit has created and park users love the work they do with our community, including Willenhall Brownies who have learnt some new gardening skills, and achieved their environmental badge. We welcome new volunteers into the Friends of Willenhall Memorial Park group and look forward to seeing the new Memorial Garden develop in the New Year.”