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Category Archives: First world war

DSC_0149Residents in Woking were given a chance to wander inside the Muslim soldiers’ burial ground and its Islamic-style garden at the weekend, which has been restored by its custodians, Horsell Common Preservation Society, with the help of Woking council. It was only a brief glimpse, but a steady stream of curious visitors made their way from Monument Road to the structure in the woods during its few hours of opening as part of Woking heritage weekend on Saturday and Saturday. The Muslim burial ground was constructed in 1917 when it was known as Woking Muslim Military Cemetery, abandoned in the 1960s when the remains there were removed to Brookwood military cemetery, and listed in the 1980s by English Heritage. The area once had a dilapidated and eerie quality to it, but now has taken on a new identity. The garden includes a memorial to those originally buried there, a combination of Indian granite and English Portland stone.

DSC_0140Designed by landscaper Lionel Fanshawe of Terra Firma, it includes 27 Himalayan birches, one for each original burial, and pink and white heather, to replicate the heather that was there when the Commonwealth War Graves Commission looked after the site.  A pair of Irish yews flank the memorial stone. English Heritage has funded 80% of the cost of restoring the structure, with the remainder met by Woking Council. The garden has been created with the aid of money from the Army Civilian Covenant Fund, Department of Local Government and Communities, Surrey county council, the sultanates of Qatar and Oman, and the local Muslim community via the Shah Jahan Mosque. Horsell Common Preservation Society has a track record of going far beyond its apparent remit of protecting and preserving the green acres around Woking, and has been creating things of lasting beauty and amenity around the town. The society, which is to open another major project in the next few weeks – the Heather Farm wetlands and wildlife site – is to be praised to the skies for transforming  a ghostly and rather melancholy area on the edge of town into a place of remembrance and peace that all communities in Woking can be proud of. Although the garden and restoration of the surrounding structure has been completed, it still awaits an official opening. Once that has taken place, it will be open 24/7 and lit at night, protected by CCTV.