Taking advantage of the first dry Sunday in a good few weeks, we headed out for a family day out to explore the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. During our Summer holidays to Holland we had visited my Great Uncle’s grave from World War II.
It was a poignant moment and one that Mini seemed interesting in learning about. I thought it would be a great opportunity to build upon this with a visit to the arboretum, and a great chance to get outside in the Autumn fresh air.
The National Memorial Arboretum is an 150 acre site, home to 30,000 trees planted as a memorial and a place of remembrance. The primary focus of remembrance is those fallen in various wars and battles in our history. There are individual memorial areas spread out throughout the grounds to represent individual regiments and groups. I really like how all of the memorials are completely different in their design, some big and bold, some more subtle, some traditional and some very modern.
However, there are also spaces dedicated to lost members of the emergency services and national charities. I took a few moment to visit the Ambulance memorial area and pay my respects to my former colleagues who had sadly passed away over recent years. There is also a beautiful dedicated area to children and babies who have passed away, sponsored by SANDs and Edward’s Trust. These areas provide a much welcomed area of peace and tranquillity for family and friends to visit.
The Arboretum isn’t a cemetery and children are made to feel very welcome. We started our visit by completing The Stick Man Trail. This is a free activity, although you are invited to make a small donation for the map. The trail led us on a loop around the North part of the park ending at one of the children’s play areas. Mini enjoyed looking out for the clues to solve the trail, for which she exchanged for a sticker when she had completed it. The trail took us past a colourful memorial dedicated to the D Day landings. The woodland area was filled with colourful boats that had been designed and coloured by children.
There are two play areas on site. The sensory play garden is located near the main visitor centre and there is an assault course play area located within the children’s wood.
Inside there is also a Landscape of Live, interactive exhibition. Children can walk through a virtual field and watch as the floor turns from grass to poppies. Mini also enjoyed designing and building her own memorial area.
Entrance into The National Memorial Arboretum is free of charge however any donations are gratefully received. Car parking is £3 per vehicle. There is also a gift shop, restaurant and coffee shop onsite. We ate at the restaurant and I was very impressed with the huge range of options. I went for the salad bar which was one of the best I’ve seen and absolutely delicious. There was also a full Sunday roast option that I was very tempted by, along with an amazing display of cakes.
There is a land train available at a cost of £6 per adult, £3 per child (6-16 years), under 5s are free. The train takes you on a 50 minute tour of the grounds and provides you with an audio commentary packed full of history all about the various memorials. We didn’t do the train this time as I wasn’t sure if Baby Mack would sit still for 50 minutes. I have done the train ride on a previous visit and would highly recommend it as a way of seeing a huge range of the memorials and finding out about their history.
I really enjoyed our day out at the National Memorial Arboretum and would definitely recommend a visit for families, it would also be fantastic for children studying about the World Wars at school. The site is spotless and so lovingly well maintained. There is a such a lovely feeling of peace and calmness as we explored the grounds. There is so much to see I think it would be difficult to visit all of the memorials in one visit however, it would also be lovely to experience the site during different seasons to see how the trees and flowers change.
For up to date information and to find out about special events planned visit the official website for The National Memorial Arboretum.