The culmination of almost two years of hard work for the ladies of Sowood WI has seen their project become a huge success.
The group launched their Poppy Trail to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great War ending and the lives of 99 local victims of the fighting.
Stemming from the idea of one of its members, to research the soldiers from the communities of Holywell Green, Stainland and Sowood who didn’t return from the war, the project was extended to provide a legacy in the form of mapped walking routes around the community taking in the homes of the fallen soldiers - walking in the steps of those young men, who had left this rural, and in many ways unchanged, community all those years before, and who hadn’t come back.
As the research began, so did the fundraising. From large scale craft markets to cake bakes and raffles, the ladies raised a magnificent £9000 to fund the project and with the funding in place, the planning for the Poppy Trail could be firmed up. It is the outcome of all this planning that was shared with the local community at the formal launch event.
Over the previous couple of weeks, the community has been festooned with poppies - hand crafted ones from the WI ladies and from the local ‘Crafty Dabbler’ handicraft group, with over 300 laminated ones designed and drawn by children at the two local primary schools.
More poignantly, and thanks to the cooperation of local residents, nearly 100 blue plaques have been placed in the windows, and ceramic poppies attached to the walls, of those homes to which the brave young men never returned.
In some cases, two or even three poppies are displayed, marking the double, or triple, sacrifice of a family who lost more than one son.
Over twenty new red and black benches and picnic tables have been sited around the route, offering an opportunity for rest and reflection.
In keeping with the WI’s stand on reducing plastic waste, these are made from recycled plastic.
Black silhouettes of soldiers have also been positioned, including one on the Sowood-Outlane boundary, which appears to be looking sadly at the real poppies still flowering in the ground.
The WI also managed to locate two WW1 memorial plaques from demolished chapels which have lain in storage with a local resident for over thirty years, and had them repositioned.
A marble triptych has been set in the cobbles, in front of a decorative bench, at the memorial in Stainland Recreation Ground and a large brass plaque now graces the main entrance at Bowling Green School, where many of the young men would have been educated.
The event on Sunday was attended by almost 300 people, including the Mayor and Mayoress of Calderdale, and began with a short commemorative service at Stainland Memorial led by Father Rodney Chapman who, together with local children, read a roll call of the 99 soldiers, many of them bearing names of families still living in the community.
The gathering were led in a rendition of the WI anthem, Jerusalem, before silence fell as the Last Post was played by a member of the local branch of the Royal British Legion.
After the service, the WI hosted an open afternoon at Sowood Community Centre. Naturally, first class tea and cakes were in abundance, but the main attraction was the research into the lives of the 99 soldiers.
Visitors were able to find familiar names and streets and see a month by month record of when the local boys had fallen. All this information has been compiled into books, copies of which will be given to the local schools, the churches and the library.
The blue plaques were displayed, as were details of the four walking routes, which can also be downloaded from Sowood WI’s website www.sowoodwi.com