Yesterday we were proud to attend the opening ceremony of the Muslim Burial Ground Peace Garden at Horsell Common, Woking by HRH The Earl of Wessex. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-34792865
terra firma have been involved with the project since 2012 and designed and administered the contract on behalf of Woking Borough Council for implementation of the new garden which completed this summer.
The site has a fascinating history which can be read in more detail at http://www.horsellcommon.org.uk/musilim_burial_ground.php but in short, was founded in 1917 as a last resting place for allied Muslim Soldiers who died of their wounds in this country during WW1 and was later supplemented with further burials in WW2 bringing the total number of graves to 27. In 1968 following some regrettable vandalism , the graves were transferred to nearby Brookwood Military Cemetery.
For many years, the Horsell Common Preservation Society (who had by then taken over the site) had tried without success to find a way to raise funds to renovate and protect this important monument, but then in 2012, and mindful of the centenary commemorations of the commencement of the Great War, English Heritage, offered to fund 80% of the cost of repairs to the boundary wall structure. In response, Woking Borough Council agreed to meet the balance to complete the project. So in the autumn of 2013, renovation experts Universal Stone Ltd, commenced repairs to the brickwork and Portland Stone capping under the guidance of chartered architects Radley House Partnership. Following this terra firma’s designs for the garden found funding through numerous sources following energetic efforts of both HCPS and Woking Borough Council’s Dr Zafar Iqbal. Following competitive tender, the contract was won by landscape contractor LDC with water feature specialist Fountains Direct and the work was implemented November 2014-June 2015.
The garden brings together the cultural expression of the traditional Islamic Garden with the natural elements of the Common. A formal geometry is set up from the walls around a central waterbody fed by a rill and small waterfall from an upper pool upon which an uplit monolithic memorial stone (with all the names of the fallen engraved) seemingly floats as the garden’s focus. Paths of Indian sandstone lead around the garden while planting beds of Birch and Heather provide seasonal colour and spatial definition. Outer boundaries include evergreen and deciduous plantings in simple swathes, kept low so as not to detract from the Listed walls but with sentinel columnar plantings opposite ends, either side of the Chatri and the memorial stone. The design is underlaid with symbolism with one tree for each soldier originally buried; the use of Portland stone within Indian granite on the memorial; the Irish yew of the English churchyard with Birch tree varieties that originated on the Indian subcontinent; the inclusion of stone prayer mats orientated toward Mecca (as are the strips of differing heather species within the beds)and the calming site and sound of gently moving water.
On the wider stage, it is hoped that the garden serves as a sign of unity within walking distance of the country’s first mosque at a time when too much emphasis is put on the divisions with Islam when we might better remember the huge sacrifice made by Islamic troops who came to join the allied cause in both world wars.