abdul hai
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Days Out: National Memorial ArboretumSo finally we decided we'd get out for the day, having spent the last 3 months at home during lockdown. We'd been wanting to visit the National Memorial Arboretum for some time so decided to go for there our first trip out. Due to the current restrictions we had to pre-book an arrival time slot online and pre-pay the £4 parking charge (it is free to enter the Arboretum but donations are encouraged). We arrived and were directed to a socially distanced parking spot, then headed straight into the Arboretum. There was a one way system in the entrance hall to ensure social distancing but once you were out in the grounds you were free to wander wherever you pleased. [caption id=attachment_4208 align=aligncenter width=917] The colourful Naval Service Memorial[/caption] The Arboretum is beautifully set out (and immaculately kept), with over 300 memorials scattered throughout the 150 acre site. We spent much of our time just wandering through the trees and checking out the memorials we came across - the majority of the memorials are military ones but there are also memorials to the police and the St John's Ambulance, for example. We had taken a packed lunch with us and there were plenty of benches around on which to sit and rest or to eat lunch. Or, in our case, to get out of the burning, hot sun. Whilst the memorials are beautiful to look at, they also made me pause for thought and reflect on all the young lives lost during many conflicts around the world. Seeing the names of the young soldiers on the Basra Memorial was sobering, particularly as Freya is determined to join up when she's 18. But the memorial that really hit me was the Shot at Dawn memorial - that was particularly moving and I have to admit to getting a bit choked up looking at that one and reading the names of the soldiers shot at dawn (for desertion) during WW1. [caption id=attachment_4204 align=aligncenter width=651] The Shot at Dawn Memorial[/caption] Not everything on site was open due to current restrictions, such as the chapel and the little train and they were also not doing guided tours, but it didn't really affect our visit. The cafe was also only serving a basic takeout menu so we just grabbed a few drinks and an ice cream before heading back out to see some more. As well as the memorials, there is a lovely path down by the River Thame which runs along one end of the site. We spent a little time sat down there watching the dragonflies, listening to the birds and reflecting on what we had seen. [caption id=attachment_4205 align=aligncenter width=662] The River Thame[/caption] Towards the end of our visit, we decided to look for a few specific memorials that we wanted to see, such as those commemorating those killed in recent conflicts, those commemorating regiments we had family who had served in, as well as the Parachute Regiment memorial which I had seen a photo of and which was particularly impressive. [caption id=attachment_4210 align=aligncenter width=675] The Parachute Regiment Memorial[/caption] As a member of the RAF Association, I also had to check out their memorial, which was beautiful. [caption id=attachment_4203 align=aligncenter width=2560] The RAF Association Memorial[/caption] Even with restrictions still in place, it was very easy to social distance due to the size of the site. There is a lot of walking involved but there are lots of benches around all over the site for you to sit and rest on as there is a lot of walking involved if you want to see everything... although whether you could see everything in one visit, I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure we saw most of the site but we were on our feet for hours and I still think we probably missed a few bits round the edges! So for only a few pounds, we had a lovely - and poignant - family day out. Even Freya enjoyed it and never whinged once (which is very unusual). I highly recommend a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum if you get the chance - it's a beautiful place with lots to look at and to think about... Kate