Horticulture Week Custodian Award - Best Community/Volunteer Initiative

Winner - 50 Trees for 50 Soldiers, Hugglescote & Donington le Heath Heritage Society in conjunction with Hugglescote & Donington le Heath Parish Council

Fifty trees for 50 soldiers saw a park area in Hugglescote transformed into a memorial to 50 soldiers who were among the first to sign up to fight in World War One. An avenue of trees was planted around the park perimeter and a granite memorial was created.

The project was led by the village's community engagement officer and involved 30 volunteers. The ceremony was attended by more than 500 local people, relatives and the shadow defence secretary.

In 1914, 50 volunteers were chosen to go to France to fight. Regular soldiers were being killed at an alarming rate and tactics suggested that what were needed were miners who had tunnelling and explosives skills, strength, bravery and willingness to work underground.

Men were selected from the Coalville and Hugglescote area. After local training, they marched to the church in Hugglescote to attend their last service before heading off for final training and then to France. Led by a marching band to the train station in Coalville, the streets were lined with flag-waving well-wishers. Fewer than half the men saw their home town again.

Planning began in June 2014 for an event to be held one day after the centenary of the soldiers' final departure. Ideas were costed and funding of £9,015 was secured from a local environmental improvement fund. As many people as possible were involved. Those living along the original marching route displayed poppies in their windows, descendents of the soldiers planted a tree and unveiled a plaque, and the local school formed a choir.

The Leicestershire Tigers lowered their standard and read the names of men from their regiment, now on the memorial stone. Fifty pigeons (the miners' favourite birds) were released and ribbons tied to the trees by the soldiers' families.

Local users have risen immeasurably. Many people visit to see the memorial and the rowan trees, which bear red berries to represent the bloodshed. This is a public park where people can not only enjoy a beautifully maintained area but also pay their respects to the "first 50" and know they are not forgotten.


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