Monday 14 February 2022

War Memorial Park in Coventry

One of our regular this year  is in the War Memorial Park in Coventry.

Roughly 48.5 hectares in size, the park is made up of two areas, the formal garden with the war memorial and then the sports areas, with playing fields, footgolf course, splasy 'n' play park and play areas. There is also a 1.6 mile circular footpath around the park.

The park is now listed as a Grade II park by English Heritage and the War Memorial itself is listed as Grade II by English Heritage.

The park was opened in July 1921 as Coventry's tribute to the soldiers from the city who lost their lives during WWI.

On a dull day when these photographs were taken, we parked in the car park and took the main path that leads to the formal garden with the War Memorial - on our right the information centre

The Beech Leaves, an art work created by Steve Tomplinson was installed to commemorate the centenary of the start of WWI and it's situated in front of the information centre.

We continued on our way and arrived at

the pond garden

the pond is small but perfectly formed

We continued on our way

The park has around 800 memorial trees dedicated to those who lost their lives in conflict.

The rose garden was originally created in 1931 and has a tudor theme.

We could see the War Memorial in the distance

The War Memorial was built in 1927 and is around 90 feet high. Designed by Mr Tickner, it's made of Portland stone and was built by John Gray, who once lived at Coombe Abbey. Inside the Memorial is a room called the Chamber of Silence. Every year on Remembrance Sunday, it is open for the public to view the 'Roll of the Fallen', books listing all of the Coventry service people who were killed in the two World Wars and even as recently as the Gulf War.

The discs around the Memorial show the names of the five soldiers associated with Coventry who were awarded the Victoria Cross. The bronze band around the memorial incorporates the wording of the 'Koshima' named after a village in north eastern India in the Naga Hills: this was the point of the furthest Japanese advance into British India during WWII. The bronze band also includes the words of the poem 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon. The final wording on the band is that of Winston Churchill's famous wartime speech from 20th August 1940, referring to the efforts of the aircrew that were fighting overhead to prevent a possible invasion.

Our next stop was the Islands of Peace and the Sensory Garden.

The Islands of Peace Japanese garden is the outcome of a three year Cities of Peace project that linked five Coventry schools with the Japan Society and a Japanese Noh Theatre project 'Between the Stones'.
The theatre project featured two Japanese dry stone (Karenansui) gardens which the children learned more about. A committee of pupils identified the features they would like to have included in a real karesansui garden in Coventry.

First created in the 13th  century in Zen Buddhist temples in Japan, these gardens have become known as Zen gardens. Karensansui translates as 'dry mountain and water' indicating how water is represented by the use of gravel or sand. These gardens represent landscape scenes in an austere way, often with little planting. Scale is left ambiguous allowing the viewer to see a distant landscape or a much more intimate scene, each viewer having a different experience. They are meant for contemplation, to be observed rather than being pleasure gardens with lush vegetation.

The nature of such gardens is such that the final design takes place at construction time. The designer adapts the concept plan to reflect the individual characteristics of the boulders and how they work together. As a consequence the garden as built differs in some respect from the concept, while adhering to the principles chosen by the children.

Symbolism often seen in gardens in Japan has been added in the built garden. The two main islands represent the turtle and crame referring to an ancient Chinese myth where the crane carries the souls of the dead to mystical islands resting on the backs of giant turtles. 

The left-hand island represents a turtle with head on the left, 

the other, a crane in flight, again head on the left.

Behind the Zen garden is the sensory garden

and next to that is the Aviary, but I did not dwell there. I get very upset when I see animals in captivity and especially birds which are meant to be able to fly free, rather than being incarcerated in cages.

The German Peace Garden was our next stop

We continued on our way

past the tennis pavillion

stopped to have a look at the topiary in the shape of an elephant

then walked along one of the long, wide avenues that would lead to the other part of the park.

We had left the formal gardens behind and were surrounded by vast expanses of grass

and arrived at an area where some large concrete blocks are positioned: during WWII, barage balloons and air-craft guns were based in the park and the concrete blocks are the remains of Barrage Balloon Anchorage Points.

The large balloons were tethered to the ground by a web of cables which formed a hazard for attacking aircraft. 

There is a disused air raid shelter further along which supports this theory as the balloons were often stored in these shelters. 

We continued on our way

past the footgolf area

turned left

past the pond that we had visited approximately an hour earlier

The stone arbour is next to the lake. This stone is  all that remains of an old stone arbour that once stood in the grounds of Little Park Street, Coventry city centre. Despite bearing the date 1701, this arbour is thought to have dated from the 15th or 16th century.

Together with sections of the garden wall joining the palace yard, it was decorated with carvings of exotic animals such as rhino and bear. In 1930, the arbour was presented to the city and removed and re-erected in the War Memorial Park.  Despite being well outside the city centre, the arbour took a direct hit from a stray bomb during the blitz and was literally blown to pieces. The surviving pieces were retrieved and put back together in 2011 in the rockery as art.

We started heading back towards the car park

past the information centre, and then home.


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