Veterans on Thrive’s Down to Earth project who planted the new Garden of Reflection in Saltwell Park Gateshead over the summer, saw the garden officially opened this week.
The new garden is an area of quiet contemplation where people can visit at any time and was opened in time for Remembrance Sunday.
Built on the former sensory garden in the park, it was partially funded by two families who lost their sons – Corporal Steven Dunn and Private Mark Turner – in Afghanistan. Between them they raised £20,000 and the Sunday Sun’s Never Forget campaign teamed up with The Royal British Legion to raise cash for the garden and a lasting memorial.
Thrive has taken on the landscaping work and veterans on our Royal British Legion funded Down to Earth project, along with staff and volunteers, planted the garden, supported by Gateshead Council.
Anne Turner, mother of Mark, said: "The memorial wall with the plaques on was built by Lee Hope, Mark’s uncle. It has made it extra special knowing the family connection. The garden is a place where people can go and think in peace and quiet."
Vicky Dunn, mother of Steven, said: "The garden will be to remember those who have gone, and help other veterans who have returned, and their families.
"Post-traumatic stress disorder is now being talked about and these veterans need help, while the garden will give them somewhere peaceful to go and reflect.
"You never get over the fact that you have lost a child who was so young and had everything to look forward to. It doesn’t feel real that he has gone.
"But the garden will be to remember those who have gone as well as those who are still here."
Councillor Stuart Green, Gateshead’s Armed Forces Champion, said: "We thought its position would make it ideal for a garden where people could go and enjoy a period of quiet reflection, and the fact that it is located so close to The Royal British Legion’s Field of Remembrance seemed to make it especially appropriate.
"We have been working closely with The Royal British Legion throughout and we were delighted that Thrive agreed to take on the landscaping and maintenance."
More than 100 people attended the opening, with the Mayor of Gateshead conducting the service. A military band provided the music for the event which was attended by both families of the fallen soldiers mentioned on the memorial.
Thrive has a two year contract to look after the garden.