Anger shared over threat to memorial flowerbeds

Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall at Wilton Park.
Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall at Wilton Park.

Threats that bedding plants at the region’s war memorials will be lost unless volunteers come forward to take them over have been blasted as “appalling”.

Concerned councillors shared their fears with Hawick townsfolk on Monday night that some war memorials in the town are likely to lose their decorative plants altogether.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall told a community council meeting: “Councillors all received an email last week saying that if we don’t find members of the public to come forward to take on looking after them, they will be replaced with shrubs.

“It’s absolutely shocking that our war memorials are now being targeted by cuts for the sake of a few flowers.

“These are sacred places, and to be receiving emails like that is absolutely appalling.”

He said that while it’s now rural memorials like those in Bedrule and Minto most at risk, making sure the surroundings of Hawick’s main memorial in Wilton Lodge Park are also protected is “something we need to keep an eye on”.

“I was on site last year with Hawick in Bloom members and the leader of Scottish Borders Council, Shona Haslam, and she stood at Wilton Lodge Park and said we would not lose the flowers at the war memorial,” he added.

“I think it is quite appalling that we are now being faced with a situation regarding not maintaining certain war memorials within our town, and I think it’s a perfect disgrace to have to be forced with the fact that we now must rely yet gain on community volunteers for the upkeep of floral bedding around these monuments or be faced with replacing the beds altogether with shrubs and heathers.

“These, in my mind, are cuts too far. Those that we honour and respect at such memorials deserve to be treated much better.

“It really is all very hard to accept, especially at a time when we are throwing vast sums of public money being thrown into huge projects across more central areas of our region.

“I’m afraid as a council our priorities are all wrong.”

Hawick in Bloom’s Marion Short said the group had previously negotiated with the regional council to secure plants for the beds at the memorial and feared backtracking on that agreement could be on the cards.

“We need to find out exactly which parts are being targeted so we can make a plan”, she added.

Earlier this year, the local authority confirmed it would no longer provide annual bedding plants for some town centre planters, war memorials, roundabouts and parks. Since then, voluntary groups have been tasked with finding a way to fill the void from next year.

And while some towns, like Kelso, are working to get volunteers and funding plans in place, the apparent lack of regard for the commemorative areas, host to remembrance services each November, is proving upsetting to many.

Hawick Community Council chairman Cameron Knox called the idea “deplorable”, and Dean Weatherston, his Kelso counterpart, said: “They would have planted over some of the war memorial beds.

“That would have been two massive raised beds sitting empty next year through remembrance. I can’t believe that the council was going to let that happen.

“We were shocked they would do that in such a place.”

Kelso in Bloom chairwoman Betty Hodges added: “The war memorial is our biggest concern. Most of our volunteers are in their later years and the beds there are pretty high, so we really need some help there.”