It’s not a cemetery. It’s a place of life, represented by the 50,000 trees planted here, where older and younger generations alike can wander and wonder.
Covering 150 acres, the Arboretum has something for everyone. For some it’s a wonderful place to stroll and enjoy the trees; for others it's a peaceful and beautiful place to remember loved ones, particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The trees and the more than 200 dedicated memorials on our site make the Arboretum a living tribute that will forever acknowledge the personal sacrifices made by the Armed Forces and civil services of this country.
Importantly, the focus isn’t totally military. There is a large area devoted to Police who have fallen while on duty, as well as other areas devoted to the Fire and Rescue and Ambulance services. National charities representing those who have died in particular circumstances, including children, are also to be found in the Arboretum grounds.
The Arboretum was the brainchild of Commander David Childs CBE who wished to see established a national focus for Remembrance. Following a meeting with Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC, an appeal was launched in 1994 by the then Prime Minister, John Major.
The future of the project became assured when three proposals were agreed. These were: for the site to be the location of the Armed Forces Memorial; for the Ministry of Defence to pay a significant grant-in-aid to allow for free entry and that The Royal British Legion would accept the gift of the site as the focus for the Nation's year-round Remembrance.
The project began with no money, no land, no staff and no trees. The National Lottery, in the form of the Millennium Commission, granted some forty per cent of the funds needed and this was matched by thousands of donations, both large and small, from a wide variety of organisations both military and civilian, men and women, corporate and voluntary.
The site was developed on reclaimed gravel workings, bordered by the Rivers Trent and Tame, gifted to the charity by Lafarge, which has generously supported the idea from the beginning.
It was created by a staff of thousands: a small paid group; a dedicated and active Friends of the National Memorial Arboretum organisation; and countless others who have either planted individual trees or helped create a memorial for their organisation. The initial planting took place thanks to grants from the Forestry Commission and the National Forest.
We once estimated that the involvement of so many supporters made the Arboretum the most popular of all the Millennium projects - rightly so, in our opinion. It will, certainly, be one of the longest lasting.
The Arboretum was officially opened to the public in May 2001.
From the start it was seen as a place of joy where the lives of people would be remembered by living trees that would grow and mature in a world at peace.
As planting began in 1997 it seemed appropriate that the site should also celebrate the turn of the century. The Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness is a central part of the site and was created to offer a place of tranquillity and reflection to people of every faith or none.
The Arboretum’s planting philosophy has always been inclusive, as can be seen in the many and varied plots. Nearly all were designed in partnership and consultation so that every group could feel a sense of ownership of the memorial to which they had contributed.
Now, more than 10 years on, the site hosts an abundance of wild plants, woodland areas, grassland, a reed bed and wetland. It is populated by a variety of wildlife including brown hares, skylarks, lapwings, otters, tits and finches, green woodpeckers, buntings and an occasional black redstart. Our Wildlife Watch Group meets every month and enjoy activities including, bat detecting evenings, bird watching and walks.
Although many of the trees are still young, they are rapidly growing into a unique living tribute. Every year sees the dedication of new memorials and special events at the Arboretum. Over eighty percent of our visitors surveyed say they will return, many time and again, to see the Arboretum as it develops.
We hope you enjoy your visit and take many thoughts away with you.
"How you are going forward, but still remembering our heroes – be they military or civilian, whether they be family or friends
or strangers – their spirit will be with us always in this living, breathing memorial.
Please keep the good work going."