Help create Derry’s WWI centenary woodland

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Local people will next weekend be given the opportunity to help create a new centenary forest marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War

The Brackfield Centenary Wood in Derry’s Faughan Valley will be opened to the public on Saturday 28 March, from 12pm to 3pm.

The Woodland Trust’s Brackfield Wood, situated right by the banks of the River Faughan, is one of just four flagship woods being created in remembrance of the 100th anniversary.

In total, the Trust’s ambitious four-year Centenary Woods project will see millions of trees planted in recognition of the millions of lives lost or forever affected by the war.

The conservation charity has now issued an open invitation to local people and visitors to get involved and to make a mark on history through the simple act of tree planting.

Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust, said: “This is a special opportunity to make a personal and hands-on contribution to Brackfield Wood, still very much in its infancy.

“We do hope that as many people as possible will join us, roll their sleeves up, and plant a tree.

“By the end of the project, our aim is to have 40,000 native trees planted here at Brackfield, with carpets of wildflowers including iconic poppies.

“It will be a place where wildlife will thrive and where people can walk, relax and reflect.”

He added: “The trees, which will stand for generations to come, will be a living, growing tribute to the people from Ireland who played a part in the war: the soldiers, their families and loved ones.

“It’s estimated that as many as 40,000 lost their lives, with countless others affected.”

Brothers Alan, Erick and Steve Williamson lost their great-uncle, Private Joseph Stevenson, during the First World War.

Alan said: “Joseph fought with the 9th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Sadly in 1917, aged just 21, he was killed at the Battle of Messines in Belgium.

“Joseph was brought up on a farm, not far from Aughnacloy in County Tyrone and always kept in touch with the family back home. We have one treasured letter sent from France in 1916 to his mother – my great-grandmother.

“The letter, perhaps understandably, doesn’t say too much about his experience and gives an assurance that he is ‘well’.

“It’s signed ‘Your affectionate son, Joe’.

“We’ll never forget him. Various family members have actually travelled to Belgium, with the British Legion, to visit the grave. And this new wood will certainly help to keep Joseph’s memory well and truly alive.”

Free refreshments will be provided at the tree planting day.

Those taking part are advised by the Woodland Trust to wear stout footwear or welly boots.