Havant’s new memory park officially opened

Memory Park, the new memorial woodland for Havant, has been officially ‘opened’ by the borough’s Mayor, Councillor Prad Bains, and the schoolchildren who chose its name.

The opening event also included the burial of a time capsule on the site by local volunteer support group Positive Pathways, which captures the experiences of local residents in 2020.

Memory Park has been created by planting 3,000 trees on the proposed site for Havant Thicket Reservoir – in a joint initiative by Havant Borough Council and Portsmouth Water.

It is designed to provide a place for quiet reflection, where the local community can take time to remember family, friends and others who have passed away. Local wildlife will also benefit from the new trees, as they create an important new habitat and connection between other areas of woodland nearby and further afield.

Creating a memorial woodland to honour those who served in the two World Wars and other conflicts was the brainchild of Councillor Bains.

During the opening ceremony at Memory Park, which was carried out in line with the latest Government Coronavirus guidance, he said, “It’s been an honour and a privilege to be involved with this project and see it grow, literally, as the woodland has been planted, its name chosen by local schoolchildren and now this official opening. I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to establishing Memory Park and I’m looking forward to seeing this special place being enjoyed by residents and visitors for decades to come.”

Sophie Bone, Lexie Miller and Joey Price, Year 7 students at Park Community School in Leigh Park, Havant, came up with the name Memory Park. The youngsters, who attended the opening event, said, “It’s a great feeling to know the name we put forward will stay far into the future. Our idea to call it Memory Park was inspired by thinking about how calming it is to spend time at the woodland – giving people a quiet and tranquil place to stop and reflect.”

Portsmouth Water Chief Executive Officer Bob Taylor added, “It’s been a pleasure to work with Councillor Bains, Havant Borough Council, Positive Pathways, Park Community School and Warren Park Primary School to develop this new community facility. Not only is Memory Park a fitting way to further commemorate those who served our country during armed conflict, it also gives people somewhere to come and think about loved ones they have lost. In addition, the new woodland is good for the environment, including helping support local wildlife.”

The contents of the time capsule buried at Memory Park were put together by members of the Positive Pathways volunteering group, which is run by the Community First organisation, in Leigh Park.

The capsule contains items, which tell the story of the volunteers’ experiences of 2020. They include a short story entitled ‘A glimmer of hope’, an art piece called ‘2020, a year like no other’ and a series of written accounts by volunteers, detailing how their lives were changed by the Covid pandemic. Councillor Bains and Portsmouth Water have also contributed to the capsule’s contents.

Tim Houghton, Chief Executive of Community First, said, “2020 has been a momentous and challenging year for everybody and the time capsule has given our Positive Pathways members a way of expressing how they felt, both positive and negative emotions and experiences. We’re really proud of the contents people have provided for the capsule and the fact it is now part of Memory Park, which is a lovely new space for everyone to enjoy.”

A mixture of different types of trees have been planted over the last two years at Memory Park, including 100 that were more fully grown, helping the woodland to establish a good structure more quickly. The trees are being protected by deer fencing while they are growing.