Fields in Trust puts Centenary Field under protection

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has joined forces with the national charity Fields in Trust to preserve a former WWI facility.

Mayor Audrey Wales, left, with Fields in Trust's Terry Housden. Image: Supplied
Mayor Audrey Wales, left, with Fields in Trust's Terry Housden. Image: Supplied

The site of the Whitehead Aerodrome has been declared 'officially protected', as the council named it as a Centenary Field.

To mark the first such military aviation facility as a living legacy, a dedication ceremony took place at Bentra Golf Course and the adjacent Whitehead Diamond Jubilee Wood. The golf course and wood were the wartime home to the Whitehead Aerodrome between 1915 and 1917, the first military aviation facility in Northern Ireland. Airships based at the site patrolled the waters between Ireland and Scotland to combat the German U-Boat menace.

"In memory of those who served or were lost, the World War I Whitehead Aerodrome site was declared a Centenary Field," said the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough, Councillor Audrey Wales MBE.

"This is a very exciting initiative from Fields in Trust which is being embraced by the Council as part of its commitment to marking the Centenary of WWI in a very public way.

"We want to celebrate the ongoing community use of these recreational sites as well as recognising local heritage through the protection of important green space.

"Council has already demonstrated its commitment to protecting such green spaces; in addition to the Bentra Golf Course we have permanently safeguarded sites with Fields in Trust at Ballymena and Larne, with a further one in process just outside of Carrickfergus."

The council was awarded Fields in Trust's partner of the year last year for these reasons.

Fields in Trust Development Manager (South East of England and Northern Ireland), Terry Housden commented: "I congratulate Mid and East Antrim Council for this showcase launch. We look forward to many more landowners following their lead and many other Centenary Fields protected as memorial spaces in Northern Ireland.

"This programme is a fitting way for us to mark the sacrifices made by so many in World War I whilst looking to the future through a living remembrance."

Centenary Fields is a project run by national charity Fields in Trust, in partnership with The Royal British Legion.

Across the UK, parks, playing fields and community gardens are being protected forever to mark the anniversary of World War I. Sites protected through the programme can be parks, recreation grounds or memorial gardens which contain war memorials or have another connection to WWI.

Protection as a Centenary Field now safeguards the future of the site as a playing field and recreation ground with provision for a public golf course and natural woodland area.

Bentra Golf Course is a mature nine-hole course designed in 1935 by James Braid. The site is also home to an 18-hole mini golf course, which played host to a family tournament on Friday.

The woodland contains 60,000 trees, a fruit tree orchard, a 2km path network, a large pond, outdoor gym, picnic area and is home to a large sculpture designed by artist Kevin Killen who worked with local school children to produce it.

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