Volunteers create garden to commemorate WWI

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An army of volunteers has created a garden of reflection at Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War. The garden has been designed to offer a tranquil place to remember those who lost their lives in the conflict.

The garden of reflection adds a new dimension to a place already unique amongst the First World War sites we look after. Completed in 1926, Sandham Memorial Chapel commemorates those not remembered on any official memorials and sheds light on the ‘Forgotten War’ in Salonika, Macedonia, through a series of paintings by the artist Stanley Spencer.

Visit the half-acre garden of reflection and you’ll find a green space rooted in rural life with fruit trees, scented cottage garden style planting and a vegetable plot. The community-spirited garden complements the modernist proportions of the chapel and an existing wildflower meadow and orchard.

How the garden was created

The efforts of 60 volunteers over eight months, a £100,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and a fundraising appeal allowed garden designer Daniel Lobb to bring his vision for the garden to fruition in time for the First World War centenary.

‘It was really important to me to quietly absorb the special atmosphere of the place and create a design that sits harmoniously next to the historic chapel, existing meadow and orchard’ said Daniel, whose simple design for the garden was inspired by the formality of the chapel building.

‘I hope it will provide both the opportunity for quiet reflection and an active gardening space for the various partner charity groups and volunteer gardeners which have helped bring my design to life’ added Daniel.

A helping hand from volunteers

National Trust volunteers, servicemen and women from Tedworth House (a recovery centre run by Help for Heroes), horticultural students from Sparsholt College, people from homeless charity St Mungo’s and members of horticultural therapy charity Thrive all assisted on the project, putting in over 320 days’ work to complete the garden.

‘With professional advice and assistance we have been privileged to be involved in totally transforming the gardens, to create an area for reflection and contemplation which we hope visitors will enjoy for many years to come’ said our garden volunteer Tony Mathias.

Planning your visit to Sandham

As the garden blooms the chapel is also welcoming the return of the 19 Stanley Spencer paintings which had been on an exhibition tour. The large scale canvases depict Spencer’s wartime experiences on the Salonika front and include many personal details.

The chapel building is modest in size and can only accommodate 25 people at a time so it’s important to pre-book your visit to Sandham. By limiting admissions you’ll find there’s ample space to wander through the tranquil surroundings of the chapel and gardens and pause to remember the fallen of the First World War.

Book your visit to Sandham