Tag: Staffordshire

A post-lockdown visit to the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire

Here’s a new concept: the post-lockdown day out.

With restrictions easing, but overnights stays still off limits until April 12, I made a day trip to the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA), the year-round centre for remembrance in Staffordshire.

As an outdoor attraction, the Arboretum has managed to remain open throughout lockdowns and, with the Rule of Six back in force from yesterday, it’s a good place for socially distanced small gathering.

Many of the memorials, such as the Shot at Dawn memorial [pictured above], are thought-provoking and rich with symbolism.

More importantly, it offers a tranquil place for reflection set in nature to digest the events of the past year that have changed our lives beyond measure.

That could be why the Arboretum has been mooted as a potential site for a new national, government-led memorial to recognise all those who have served their community during Covid-19 pandemic, including NHS keyworkers.

The Arboretum celebrates its 20th anniversary on May 16 and I have a feature coming soon in the i newspaper — look out for details.

It’s like Chris Ansell, the Arboretum’s Head of Participation and Learning, told me this week:

“We have a responsibility to those who have given their lives for their country but also a responsibility to ourselves to take time and reflect in order to look forward with hope.”

More about the NMA here

 

Walking in the footsteps of the Saints

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I’ve been on the trail of a saint this week.

Werburgh is the known as the Patron Saint of Chester; her feast will be celebrated at the city’s Cathedral on February 3.

The journey of Werburgh from a noble Staffordshire family to sainthood also provides the narrative backdrop to the Two Saints Way, a newly opened long-distance walking trail through the rural heart of England.

The trail recreates the ancient pilgrimage route between Lichfield and Chester Cathedrals via Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent. The name refers to St Werburgh and St Chad, two Saxon saints who brought Christianity to the ancient kingdom of Mercia (the modern-day Midlands) in the 7th century.

These trails are increasingly popular again today with latter-day pilgrims seeking spiritual connections on a long-distance hike.

“The pilgrimage has become a contemporary quest for ancient wisdom. It encapsulates what life is about, namely going on a journey,” says David Pott, who devised the Two Saints Way and is walking with me on the trail.

“In the contemporary context, it’s about asking questions and seeking answers. But modern pilgrims seek to do so in mind, body and soul,” he adds.

Read more about St Werburgh in the February issue of Discover Britain magazine.

Read my Walk in Depth piece from Walk, the Ramblers’ magazine.

This story traces the other leg of the trail, focusing on the journey of St Chad.

More about the project from the Two Saints Way website.