Princess Anne was in Londonderry yesterday to launch an ambitious project to plant 40,000 native trees in memory of the Irish soldiers killed in the Great War.
The Brackfield Wood visit marked the start of the Woodland Trust’s Centenary Woods initiative which has been described as a “lasting tribute to the people of Ireland who played a part in the First World War”.
Guests at the event, on the banks of the River Faughan, helped plant 100 saplings marking 100 years since the end of the war in November 1918 – with the Princess Royal 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.
The poignant lines are taken from Dr Sam Burnside’s poetry collection ‘By Brackfield Bawn: On being in Brackfield Memorial Woods’.
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.”
Mr Cregg added: “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 First World War Centenary Woods project is supported by the Trust’s lead partner Sainsburys, helping plant millions of native trees across the UK.