Following a 25% drop in visitor numbers in the second half of November, the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, the UK’s focal point for year-round Remembrance, has issued an urgent message to reassure the public that, although there is ongoing construction work, its extensive site remains fully open.
The Arboretum, part of The Royal British Legion, commenced work on a new £15.7 million Remembrance Centre in September and began a £3.5 million programme of repairs and improvements to the Armed Forces Memorial on 12 November.
“In letting people know about these exciting developments for the Arboretum ahead of their visit, some have mistakenly thought that the whole site is closed. Based on our calculations, it looks as though up to a quarter of the people we’d usually attract in the last fortnight have been deterred from coming as a result” says Sarah Montgomery, the Arboretum’s managing director.
“The truth is that we are fully open. There are over 300 other memorials to explore, including First World War tributes such as Shot at Dawn and the Football Remembers ‘Christmas Truce’ memorial. We also have 150 acres of wooded parkland and wildlife to enjoy and a wide variety of events to participate in – including a full programme of Christmas activities which kick off this weekend.”
The Arboretum is free to enter, with revenues raised through food and gift sales, events and fundraising activities. “Any unexpected drop in visitor numbers really hurts our income and, as a registered charity, we really do need every penny” added Sarah Montgomery.
A festive food and gift fair, holly wreath making workshops, stories with Santa and a candlelit carol service are among the activities planned for visitors to the Arboretum in the run-up to Christmas. The programme will kick off on December 5 and 6 with the following events and activities:
- Festive fair with handmade gifts and a selection of food and drink.
- Workshop in which adults can learn the art of making traditional holly wreaths. The activity costs £27 and pre-booking is essential. All materials, mulled wine and mince pies are provided.
- Stories with Santa in his grotto and a puzzle trail in Santa’s garden. This activity costs £10 per child and pre-booking is essential. Each child will receive a Sutton seeds Fun to grow Garden set.
- Workshop in which children can make Christmas cards and decorate Christmas baubles.
- Christmas in the trenches during World War 1 will be the theme of a talk by World War I writer Joss Musgrove Knibb on December 17.
- On December 19, there will be a candlelit carol service in the grounds of the Arboretum in the evening, which is open to everyone.
Winter warmer walks, based on World War I related memorials, including the Christmas Truce, will take place every weekend apart from December 5 and 6. The walks cost £7 per person and include mince pies and mulled wine.
The Arboretum’s restaurant, which is open daily, will offer a Christmas carvery throughout December.