Shropshire Star comment: Arboretum a source of real pride
If you ask most men and women whether they’re aware of the National Memorial Arboretum, they’d almost certainly confirm that they were.
But if you asked them whether they’d made time to pay it a visit, they’d almost certainly say they hadn’t. Though the National Memorial Arboretum is on our doorstep, at Alrewas, in Staffordshire, many people would confess to having driven past it without actually stopping.
There are, however, an increasing number of people who do take the time to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice. A record 342,000 people visited the 150-acre landscaped grounds, featuring the commanding Armed Forces’ Memorial in the year to September 30.
It is a remarkable number as people marked a number of key dates during the past year, including the centenary of the end of the First World War and more recently the 50th anniversary of Operation Banner in Northern Ireland.
The arboretum is one of our region’s great, unsung attractions. It does us great credit and ought to be a source of considerable pride. Britain played a great part in fostering world peace and stamping our tyranny; a role that seems almost unbelievable in today’s fractious and divisive times. There was an era where the United Kingdom led on a global stage and provided a sense of moral authority; one that has been severely eroded in recent years.
Against almost insurmountable odds, the nation fought bravely to protect key freedoms and to stave off the threat of facism. We must learn the lessons from our past. We fought so that the world would be less divided and would find common interest. We fought against narrow nationalistic interests that were divisive and led to a break down in the world order. We fought so that future generations could enjoy the freedoms and privileges that we now too easily take for granted.
The arboretum should be viewed as a place that provides great comfort and succour to those who visit. It is a space for reflection, for contemplation, for memory and for love.
We should be grateful that in a time when public services and facilities are declining, it bucks the trend. Aside from remembering those who fell and whose lives were not given in vain, we should also be sufficiently humble to let the arboretum teach us about our conduct in a harsh and unforgiving modern world.