Sometimes trips are planned well in advance, and sometimes they just happen. My visit to The National Memorial Arboretum was one of the latter situations. I was on my way to Derbyshire - for reasons I will talk about in a post next month - and on the way I passed a brown sign saying 'National Memorial Arboretum'. So on my way home, I took a detour and paid a visit.
I knew about the main circular memorial. Set on a mound in the centre of the Arboretum, it's made up of a series of sweeping curved stone walls bearing the names of over 15,000 people who have died in service to their country.
A large expanse of stone is empty. Each year the names of those who have fallen during the previous year are hand carved onto the walls.
There is space for several thousand more...
I hadn't realised until my visit that as well as the central memorial, there are many smaller memorials to specific regiments and organisations. Some are small and discreet, some far larger.
They are being added to all the time. The statue of Bellerophon riding Pegasus, leaping from a plinth behind a soldier of the Parachute Regiment pulling in his pack is one of the newer additions.
It was a blazing day, and I was there when the sun was strong, and the light harsh. While walking around the 'Paras' memorial, I noticed that the shadow of Pegasus was falling in such as way that it looked as though the shadow of the soldier had somehow formed the shape of the flying horse.
There are many beautiful and striking monuments, but one of the most beautiful is not stone, metal or wood. It's the Royal British Legion's Poppy Field. A mass of red, white and blue wild flowers, with some interloping yellow splashes of sunshiny brightness, this speaks to all who see it, with little need for signs or explanations.
A superb location for photography, but one which should not be viewed only through the camera. Moving and thought-provoking, time should be allowed for pauses and reflection.