Princess Anne backs Great War memorial woodland
A plan to create a wood in Northern Ireland to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War has received the royal seal of approval.
The Princess Royal flew into the province yesterday for a number of engagements including a visit to the Ulster University in Belfast and to the Royal Ulster Yacht Club in Bangor.
Glorious weather shone all day for the Princess Anne's visit, which ended at Clandeboye Estate near Bangor in her capacity as the patron of the Woodland Trust.
The trust has initiated a Centenary Woods project that will see four flagship woods created throughout the UK to commemorate the anniversary of the Great War.
Millions of trees will be planted to honour the millions of lives lost.
The trust is creating the local woodland - Brackfield Wood - near Londonderry on the banks of the River Faughan.
It will be home to 40,000 native saplings.
The charity also has plans for a special memorial area and an information hub to relay stories of Ireland's role in the 1914-18 conflict.
The trust says it will be a beautiful and flourishing place of remembrance, and a haven for wildlife.
Clandeboye Estate has its own connections with the Great War, which were described by Lady Dufferin as being "quite moving" for her.
Lady Dufferin addressed a number of guests ahead of the visit. She said: "It is very moving to think that around 100 years ago young men were running around the woods outside training for the war before taking position in France.
"Those young men were from the 36th Ulster Division, which suffered heavy losses.
"I am very pleased to welcome HRH the Princess Royal to Clandeboye to give this entire project her support."
The 36th Ulster Division trained beside Helen's Tower, a well-loved landmark within the estate, before leaving for the front and the horrors of the Somme.
The trust's ambitious landscape project, including Brackfield Wood, will cost £1 million. The charity has already raised £650,000, and is appealing for support to help make its vision a reality.
Patrick Cregg, Woodland Trust director, said: "With Brackfield at the core, we have ambitious plans to link the neighbouring pockets of woodland that dot the banks of the river. We want to open up miles of woodland and riverside walks."