A place to remember
PUBLISHED: 11:59 01 December 2015 | UPDATED: 11:59 01 December 2015
Gardens can have healing powers. Jilly Hurley visits the Elveden Estate where Lord Iveagh has dedicated beautiful woodland to a memorial garden for those East Anglian Air Ambulance patients who couldn't be saved
Grief has been glossed in various ways, perhaps most famously in terms of the five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As Freud observed, it’s a ‘work of mourning’. Something to be got through, and the going is hard.
Part of what makes it hard is the feeling of being alone. A sense of community and communal suffering cannot make grief go away, but it can make dealing with it a little easier.
Lord Iveagh (the Rt Hon Arthur Edward Rory Guinness, 4th Earl of Iveagh), understands what community means, its power and goodness, and also the responsibilities it can entail. Which is why, as part of his influential role as a trustee for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, he has dedicated a beautiful part of woodland on his estate at Elveden for an annual memorial walk for former East Anglian Air Ambulance patients.
Friends and family who have been left behind can use the Patient Memorial Walk as a peaceful place in which to remember their loved ones. Its seclusion makes it a private and personal experience, but the walk also offers a sense of collective respect and purpose, as those who attend are united by their common experience of grief. Jo Cartwright, patient liaison officer at the EAAA, worked closely with Lord Iveagh to develop the annual walk through the estate’s established nature trail.
“We are,” she explained, “very good at welcoming former patients to the bases, and contacting patients who are likely to have made a good recovery. But we didn’t have a way to reach out to those families of patients we haven’t been able to save.
“We wanted to provide a place for the families who have lost their loved ones unexpectedly, to be able to go and remember them in a positive way.” The wildness of the walk’s setting is serene and transporting. It offers space and opportunity to reflect, and to take pleasure from the surroundings. A large handsome wooden bench, donated by a family who had lost someone, marks the focal point, providing a place to pause in the quiet solidarity that comes with shared loss. Engraved above the Charity’s name is, simply, ‘We remember’.
Lord Iveagh, a member of the Guinness brewing family and Ned to his intimates, was born and raised in Ireland. But one of the things he most values about his adopted home is its unique atmosphere, as “a place made by its people, a community in the proper sense of the word”. He speaks passionately on the subject, and gives his own rationale for the annual walk in recognition of the Suffolk community, of which the EAAA has been an integral part of for 15 years.
“I wanted to dedicate a part of Elveden to the charity,” he explains, “to cement the relationship and as a way of supporting the EAAA.”
Lord Iveagh is more broadly connected with the life of Suffolk through his work on the 22,500 acres Elveden Estate. He inherited when he was only 22 and still studying at Cirencester Agricultural College. There was little time to feel overwhelmed by the prospect.
“It was just a fact that this was my life, and it had changed now,” he recalls. He also made significant changes, helping to turn the estate into one of the largest working farms in Britain. Concentrating on root vegetables, Elveden produces 80,000 tonnes of potatoes, onions, parsnips and carrots each year. To ensure the produce is really fresh, Elveden works with neighbouring farms to grade, wash and pack as close to the source as possible. The estate also comprises a 4,000 acre forest, and has become the premier supplier of Christmas Trees in the UK, specialising in display trees.
As Lord Iveagh shows me around, I’m struck by how disarmingly laid back he is – softly spoken, warm and charming, but at the same time intensely energetic and engaged when he comes to discussing the many projects in his life and the place where he lives.
He first became involved with EAAA through his old friend David Barker, who was a trustee. He had seen many times how much its services were needed in the area – the old A11 road running alongside the Elveden Estate was a hotspot for road traffic accidents. The area around Elveden is a rural community, and the EAAA were often the first on scene at local incidents.
Dedicating EAAA’s memorial walk perfectly expresses Lord Iveagh’s affection for the community in which he lives, and his commitment to the important work of the charity. The memorial bench, the symbolic heart of the walk, was officially recognised with a ceremony in August, attended by those who have lost loved ones and by EAAA staff and clinicians. It is still quite new, but it’s already been much used . . . and is already much loved.