I am a freelance writer specialising mainly in health and education and living in Staffordshire. Find me on Linked In
From archery skills to learning about an RAF Control Room
Thousands of people descended on one of the UK's unsung attractions to enjoy a free Autumn Festival for all the family. The National Memorial Arboretum, based at Alrewas in Staffordshire, serves as an annual centre of Remembrance for regimental and civilian organisations alike, and which both honours and recognises those who have died in the service of their country. No surprise then that the Autumn Festival, held over the weekend of Saturday 22 September and Sunday 23 September, enjoyed a military element with two mobile displays dedicated to the Royal Air Force which this year celebrates the centenary of its creation. The displays consisted of an insight into life in an RAF barracks, where visitors could try their hand at making up a bed, and a control room complete with model planes on a map and a couple of 'staff' in military uniform.
Visitors could enjoy a couple of RAF-themed displays
Visitors to the Arboretum, which contains more than 370 memorials dotted among the thousands of trees on the massive 150 acre site, also had a number of other special attractions to enjoy over the course of the Autumn Festival weekend. There was a food and craft stall situated on Heroes' Square, with people able to choose from a selection of wines, cheeses, pasties, pies, sausage rolls, hot pork sandwiches and cakes. But for visitors interested in taking something home with them on either day, there was a wide selection of craft items on sale ranging from plants and painted stones to various ornaments. And people browsing the stalls were also treated to live musical entertainment throughout the weekend.
Get up close to birds of prey and woodland animals
For younger visitors there were a number of arts and crafts activities for children and families to take part in, together with the chance to admire various birds of prey and also handle woodland animals, including a skunk. The more adventurous visitors could also try their hand at a free archery demonstration, with a choice of targets to aim at depending on the age of the person handling the bow. As well as the Autumn Festival activities, visitors to the Arboretum were also welcome to wander around the grounds - or take the land train - in order to admire some of the growing number of memorials of all shapes and sizes on display, including the impressive Armed Forces Memorial which towers over the site. They were also able to visit the recently opened Landscapes of Life exhibition, which carries an admission fee.
The Arboretum, which is open all year, is part of The Royal British Legion. It opened its new £15.7 million Remembrance Centre in October 2016, and is shortly due to open its new Aspects conference and meeting place facility.