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First World War Centenary Commemorations in Whitland
Wednesday, Jun 22, 2016 3:38 pm

In 2014  representatives from the Whitland and Llanboidy Branch of the British Legion, Whitland Town Council, Whitland Memorial Hall and 2420 (Whitland & District) Sqn. ATC got together to organise events over the  following 4 years as part of the national WWI Centenary Commemorations.

In June 2014 we celebrated Armed Forces Day for the first time in Whitland with a ceremony at the Memorial Hall followed by an Open Day at the ATC headquarters and the plan is to continue to do so, on a yearly basis.

In November 2014 a very successful exhibition was organised and we plan to do another one in 2018 to mark the end of the centenary commemorations.  Donations given during the exhibition were allocated to WWI Centenary projects.

The “main event” in 2015 was a Festival of Remembrance in Dyffryn Taf School.  Although the original idea was from the organising group it was agreed that Dyffryn Taf would take the lead on this one, in order to involve students working towards their baccalaureate, etc.   The school secured a grant from the “Wales Remembers Fund” and decided that any profits would be donated to the Whitland and Llanboidy Ex-Servicemen Association and Whitland Memorial Hall.  On being told this, the 2 groups decided that instead of keeping the donation they would be giving it towards the organisation of WWI Centenary Commemorations.

The project for 2016 was a commemorative garden within Parc Dr Owen.  Permission was obtained from the Trustees of Parc Dr Owen for the creation of this garden on the North-East corner of the Parc against the bank which borders the Afon Gronw.  This garden is, so far, the only project we have been working on, which will stay physically in place once the commemorations of the centenary are over.  The other projects will stay recorded in photos, print, memories, but the garden will be somewhere where people will be able to go and sit in the benches and maybe think for a few moments about those who lost their lives for their country.   Furthermore, it will be a great enhancement to Parc Dr Owen.

Parc Dr Owen is a wonderfully large area, ideal for all the sports that it already caters for.  It is, however quite barren and as such not a very welcoming place for those who do not play sport.  The creation of another small focal point, to add to the existing Whitland Heritage Sculptural Seat, for example, will encourage more people to go for a walk around the Parc.  The Whitland Town Council has secured funding from the Safe Routes in the Communities Programme to, among other things, revitalise the footpath from North Road into the Parc.  This work will be done next year BUT meanwhile, the Whitland Town Council, with funding from a Section 106 agreement, provided by a Developer for the Community of Whitland, has already re-instated part of the pathway around Parc Dr Owen following the route of an old footpath, which had been covered.  This splendid path is the first of other pathways and pathway improvements that are being planned.

One can easily imagine benefits like the pupils from Ysgol Llys Hywel being able to walk to Dyffryn Taff when the visit their “big school”, the residents from St. David’s Avenue being able to join the Whitland Walking Group for a stroll around the Parc and finish in the Bowling Club for a refreshing cup of tea (they have done it once but could not walk around the Parc, something which limited the experience greatly), young mum’s would be able to take their push chairs on the path rather than fight to push them on the damp grass,  toddlers could tag along on their trikes, etc.  And the WWI garden would provide an ideal midway rest point!

In the WWI Commemoration Garden there is a special WWI commemoration bench and a commemorative plaque on a railing.  This railing will also be used to fix poppy wreaths during the November Remembrance Services.  Up to now the service has been held in the Memorial Hall, where the Memorial Plaques are located, but we hope that if the weather allows from now on some of the service could take place in the new garden as well.

The choice of plants for the garden was based on their suitability for the location and also because they would reflect the reasons for the garden.  The Weeping Willow trees are there to represent women at time of war and with their meaning of sadness they somehow seemed evocative and appropriate.  One of the greatest symbolic meanings of the willow tree is that even through great loss we have the ability to grow and there is potential for something new…  The poppies already planted include red poppies, because of their association with Remembrance and the yellow and orange Welsh Poppies.  The planters on either side of the bench contain Bay (Glory), Rosemary (Remembrance) and Thyme (Courage and Strength).

In the near future Tea Roses (I`ll remember always) will be planted around the seating area and Forget-me-nots, Snowdrops (Hope) and other wild flowers will be sown under the Willow trees.

To a certain extent one can say that our plans have been quite modest but all that has been done has been done for the local community and involving as many community groups or individuals as possible.  This Garden is a good example of that since it would not have been possible without the collaboration and financial support from the Whitland Town Council, Whitland and Llanboidy Ex- Servicemen Association, Narberth and Whitland Rotary Club, Parc Dr Owen Development Committee, Whitland Town Hall and Whitland Memorial Hall as well as the donations kindly given during the 2014 Exhibition and 2015 Festival of Remembrance Tickets by those who attended.

We hope that Whitland will enjoy this addition to Parc Dr Owen and go for a stroll on the new pathway.  The bench in the WWI garden is ideal for a quick rest before looping back for the second part of the walk.

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