Princess Anne arrived in Derry today to launch a massive project to plant 40,000 native trees in memory of all Irish soldiers who died in the Great War.
The Princess Royal’s official visit to Brackfield Wood on the outskirts of the city this afternoon marked the start of the Woodland Trust project, which has been described as a “lasting tribute to the people of Ireland who played a part in the First World War”.
With The Princess Royal as patron, the Woodland Trust’s Centenary Woods project will see four flagship woods created – one each in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales – to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the War.
Brackfield Wood sits by the banks of the River Faughan, the wood will be home to 40,000 native trees – a respectful and flourishing tribute to those lives lost, from across the island of Ireland, during the war.
Guests made their mark today by planting 100 saplings marking 100 years since the end of the First World War in November 1918, with Princess Anne planting the final batch, consisting of oak saplings.
A recently installed poetry trail was also unveiled at the Woods.
It features eight stone sculptures, each carved with lines of poetry, and strategically placed to lead visitors into and through the woodland, finishing at the riverside.
The poignant lines are taken from Dr Sam Burnside’s poetry collection ‘By Brackfield Bawn: On being in Brackfield Memorial Woods 2’.
One of the poems, now etched in stone, reads: ‘It is said / A man dies twice / When he stops breathing / And when he is forgotten’.
Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust, said: “The wood, and the poetry trail, will help to ensure that the people of Ireland who sacrificed so much in the First World War will not be forgotten. It is estimated that as many as 40,000 lost their lives, with many others affected. Now, in contrast to the unimaginable sadness, we have a place of total beauty. It’s a haven in which wildlife will thrive and, for people, a place for quiet reflection.
“We’re grateful to Her Royal Highness for taking the time to visit and to plant a tree. And we hope that everyone – local people and those from further afield – will be encouraged to explore this fantastic resource.”
The Trust also has plans for a riverside amphitheatre – the ideal structure and location for outdoor events and learning. The amphitheatre will pay tribute to the 15 regiments who served from across Ireland. Each regimental crest will be engraved in the stone base.
As well as being a place of remembrance, Brackfield – and its latest additions – will help to buffer the nearby fragments of ancient woodland that dot the banks of the River Faughan.
The First World War Centenary Woods project is supported by the Trust’s lead partner Sainsburys, helping plant millions of native trees to commemorate the First World War.