Tribute at busway in Leigh is blooming beautiful

Poppies alongside the busway
Poppies alongside the busway

Guided busway visitors can now take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in World War One thanks to a poignant flower display.

The massive bed of poppies planted by volunteers at Leigh Ornithological Society (LOS) 100 years after the conflict finished is finally looking its best thanks to the recent rainfall.

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The result is an appropriately massive and beautiful tribute to the victims of war between 1914 and 1918.

The flower bed and its bright red blooms covers an area of some 750m sq located next to Lilford Park in Leigh.

Birdwatchers from the LOS came up with the idea after having the seeds donated by the Friends of Lilford Park (FOLP).

They were fearing that the extraordinarily-long run of very hot temperatures and dry weather this summer had prevented the seeds growing properly but expressed relief that a spell of wetter conditions has turned the memorial site into a sea of scarlet.

The floral display now provides a moment of thought and reflection both for passengers on the buses travelling between Leigh and Manchester city centre and for walkers and cyclists on the path running alongside it.

LOS deputy chair Tony Bishop said: “We had been creating a wildflower meadow in Lilford Park and we had some left over poppy seeds donated by the friends’ group.

“We decided to approach Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to see if we could sow poppy seeds along the guided busway and they agreed.

“TfGM put some weedkiller down to prepare the site and then myself and a couple of other volunteers from LOS sowed all the seed.

“That was in April. With the long hot summer it didn’t initially look very good but as soon as it rained it turned into a real spectacle.

“We’ve also done it to commemorate the Armistice 100 years ago.

“We’ve also done it to attract birds, bees and insects so hopefully it will be a good all-round environmental project.”

The volunteers pulled out all the stops to get the area looking as lovely as possible,buying an extra kilogram of seeds to ensure there are as many blooms as possible.

LOS also worked with Wigan Council on the project and had assistance from an expert botanist.

A plan is now being drawn up between the volunteers at LOS, TfGM and the town hall to ensure the poppy display is maintained and continues to look stunning season after season.

The authorities have expressed their delight at being able to create such an attractive and thought-provoking memorial along the flagship public transport route.

A spokesperson said: “We’re proud to have worked on this project with local community groups, providing land and landscaping support to enable the 1.8kg of seeds to be planted.

“Not only are they a fitting tribute to mark the centenary of the WW1 Armistice and honour those that gave their lives, they will also provide a welcome pop of colour on the guided busway route.”

Penny McGinty, Wigan Council’s assistant director for corporate contracts and assets, said: “Leigh Ornithological Society have done a fantastic job with their beautiful poppy display, and it can now be enjoyed by the many people who take that route.”

LOS members Jeff Hurst and Paul Richardson did the seed sowing with Mr Bishop.