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After working and travelling, Alexis settled on gardening as his career path and was attracted by the quality of The Royal Parks' apprenticeship course. He worked on the Battlefields to Butterflies garden in Brompton Cemetery, a living memorial to all UK parks, gardens and grounds staff who died in the First World War.

The project was completed in partnership with The Royal Parks Guild and The Royal Hospital Chelsea, and Alexis worked with the Chelsea Pensioners.

Life lessons

"The Chelsea Pensioners were great. Warm, friendly and knowledgeable on many subjects, not just the services and horticulture. They were a diverse bunch with diverse interests and had lived really interesting lives. I received plenty of great gardening tips, and I think even more general life tips from them!

"They had some great stories to tell about their lives in, and after, the military. The common thread that came through for me was to have respect for history, and be willing to learn from it in order to not repeat the same mistakes.

"Even the fairly recent past can seem a very distant place for younger people that are living in the turbulent modern world. This generation are our link to it, and it's important for us to glean as much knowledge from them as we can.

"Conversely, I think it is good for older people to have a connection to modernity. The more they can keep in touch with a rapidly changing world, the better equipped they will be to deal with it, so it's really a mutually beneficial relationship."

The importance of parks

"Green spaces are such an important feature to have in bustling cities like London. They give a place for people to gather socially, participate in community events and sport, make a connection with nature and provide a calm breathing space, giving much needed relief to busy, stressed people. The best thing about the Royal Parks is that they are totally free, and open to all sections of society to enjoy world class horticulture.

"Parks and gardens played an important role during WWI, providing land for agriculture, space for military activities, and, as parks have always done, a stress relief valve for embattled Londoners. For this reason the new memorial is a well deserved addition.

"Perhaps more importantly, the memorial commemorates of all of the parks and garden staff, especially those who lost their lives, during the war. It will be especially fitting to unveil it during the centenary of the end of the conflict."

The Royal Parks and Royal Parks Guild World War 1 project been made possible by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War Then and Now programme.



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