The community project to breathe new life into Marshall Gardens in the town centre, transforming it into a beautiful memorial garden, is officially complete.
The Mayor of Warrington, Cllr Maureen Creaghan, joined Lisa Billing – the mother of Private Daniel Wade from Latchford, who was tragically killed fighting in Afghanistan in 2012 – for the official opening ceremony.
The opening took place on Sunday 6 March, the 10th anniversary of the death of Daniel alongside his comrades from The Warrior Six. Also in attendance at the event were family members of the Warrior Six, armed forces representatives, community members and volunteers who have supported the project and the council’s Cabinet Member for leisure and community, Cllr Tony Higgins.
Lisa has been instrumental in driving forward the revitalisation of the gardens, spending a number of years researching and developing the project. Work got underway in 2020, with Lisa, Warrington Borough Council, armed forces mental health service Minds At War, community groups and volunteers working together to transform the gardens – which sit opposite the Cenotaph on Bridgefoot – into a haven of peace, reflection and remembrance.
Lisa Billing looks at the first stones laid in the new Heroes Pathway
The project includes:
- A clean-up of the gardens, which had in recent years deteriorated
- Clearance of tired, overgrown trees and shrubbery which were planted in the 1950s and were in need of replacement
- The installation of a new Heroes Pathway – giving everyone the opportunity to purchase a stone paying tribute to a loved one who has served, or is still serving, in the armed forces; or a public services worker who has worked in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic
- 12 new themed benches
- Landscaping works and the planting of a variety of colourful, textured, scented flowers
- Securing the gardens through the refurbishment of the ornate feature gates and railings at the park entrance
Lisa Billing said: “I have always wanted to create a suitable tribute in our town for my son, Daniel, and his comrades in the Warrior Six. I’m so proud that this has now happened and the work has been completed to bring Marshall Gardens back to life again as a beautiful memorial garden.
It has been really touching to have received so much support from so many people in the community, including local volunteers. I’m very grateful for the time and effort they have dedicated to this project – from weeding and litter picking to painting fencing or signing up to support the long-term upkeep of the gardens.”
“I’d also like to thank the generous businesses who have so kindly provided sponsorship. I’m really excited about the future of Marshall Gardens, and I’m looking forward to it once again shining as a true community garden for everyone to enjoy – from the local community and schoolchildren to veterans and their families.
“It will be a haven of peace and reflection, opposite our Cenotaph, where anyone can come to reflect, remember and honour someone who – like Daniel for me – is a true hero.”
An important part of the opening ceremony was the planting of the 18 new trees, specifically chosen to bring colour, vibrancy and life to the revitalised gardens. The selected trees, which originate from all over the world, include a Golden Indian Bean tree, a ‘Candyfloss’ Tree, a Black Mulberry tree and a Persian Ironwwod tree. Some of the trees are unique to Marshall Gardens and won’t be found anywhere else in Warrington.
Included among the new trees are six cherry blossom trees – one for each of the Warrior Six – in honour of the sacrifice they made. Cherry blossoms were chosen as their short-lived blossom each year is a reminder that life is beautiful yet fleeting.
Warrington Borough Council invited local people to nominate community representatives who they thought deserved to plant one of the 18 new trees – whether a community leader, a public service hero, or a school class. Many of those nominated were in attendance at the ceremony, to officially plant a tree.
Mayor of Warrington, Cllr Maureen Creaghan, said: “Marshall Gardens has a special significance due to its location opposite Warrington Cenotaph, but in recent years, it had become a forgotten part of our town centre. I’m absolutely delighted that the gardens have now been restored to their former glory.
Families look at the Heroes Pathway
“From the beautiful new trees, to new themed benches and a Heroes Pathway, the gardens really have been given a new lease of life. In 2019, we completed our project to restore, enhance and safeguard the Cenotaph for future generations. It’s fantastic that Marshall Gardens has also now been enhanced and preserved. By creating a memorial garden here, we have provided the prefect companion for our Cenotaph, a real place of peace and beauty, where people can come to reflect and remember.”
Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for leisure and community, Cllr Tony Higgins, said: “This is a fantastic project, which has seen the whole community working together to create something truly special. Over the past 18 months, these gardens – in their position opposite our Cenotaph, and with their fantastic views of the River Mersey – have undergone a complete transformation.
“It has been a real source of pride to see so many people dedicating their time and efforts to this project. It really is a fantastic example of how, by working together, we can achieve great things.
“Marshall Gardens is now ready to begin a new era as a vibrant memorial garden – and I’m looking forward to it once again, as when it first opened, providing a welcoming, picturesque community parkland, in the heart of Warrington.”
Families look at the Heroes Pathway
The Heroes Pathway project was launched in 2016, with the first stones laid in Mowbray Park in Sunderland to honour all personnel who have served their country in any way. The Sunderland project has been a huge success, with close to 1000 stones now laid in the pathway as of March 2021.
The granite plaques are 350mm x 250mm in size and will carry the individual name, rank and badge of the serving force, and similar details for emergency and other public service personnel or simply someone who is your own hero.
For more information about the Heroes Pathway project and to purchase a stone, please go to https://nationalveteranswalk.co.uk
All profits from the sale of stones will be donated to support the work of Warrington Wolves Foundation and St Rocco’s Hospice.