One million poppies to line repatriation route

Oxford Mail: James Gillies planting poppies along the repatriation route James Gillies planting poppies along the repatriation route

A CARPET of red poppies will line a route for military repatriation ceremonies to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War.

James Gillies, 47, has started planting one million poppy seeds along a 1km stretch of Monahan Way, Carterton, part of the route in which fallen servicemen’s coffins are carried from RAF Brize Norton to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

Mr Gillies, who owns the Complete Land Care land management company in Brize Norton, has donated £1,000 worth of seeds after West Oxfordshire District Council gave him permission to plant on the verges.

He said: “Should any servicemen be repatriated, then the families will see a great display of poppies and it will look fantastic.

“People don’t usually stand on that part of the road when they pay their respects so where there are no people, the poppies will instead take over.”

The seeds have been planted and will flower from July to September.

The company will maintain the meadow until 2018 to match the duration of the Great War’s 100th anniversary commemorations.

Mr Gillies, who lives in Brize Norton with his wife Sarahjane and one-year-old son William, said the plants also have environmental and economic benefits.

He said: “We do work with wildflowers and try to encourage as many people as possible to plant them or get towns and villages involved.

“Keeping it long enough for wildflowers also helps the birds, bees and pollinated insects.”

The district council’s cabinet member for the environment, David Harvey, said: “This is an excellent way of marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and remembering the sacrifices so many people made.

“We are pleased to be working with a local company and applaud them for taking this initiative.”

Poppies became a symbol of remembrance at the end of the First World War as they were the only flower that grew on barren battlefields.

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