MEMBERS of the Risca community have transformed a council-owned garden.

The memorial garden, in the centre of Risca on the main road, houses the Pontywaun County School memorial from the First World War, remembering the 25 boys and one teacher who gave the ultimate sacrifice. 

Rachel Meredith, who is one of Morrison’s Supermarket Community Champions,  approached the Risca Branch of the Royal British Legion hoping to encourage landscaping and planting of new flora on a continual basis - with permission granted from Caerphilly County Borough Council to carry this work out.

This is part of Morrison's national Seeds of Hope campaign; they have given away 2.5 million sunflower seeds to customers, in a bid to spread cheer. They are also providing plants to go into areas where the public can sit and enjoy them.

Mike West, Steve Veysey and Iain Jones - from the Risca Branch of RBL - were the main driving force behind getting the garden into shape.

Mr Veysey said: “We have had permission from Caerphilly County Borough Council to take over maintenance of the garden for the next five years.

“Although the branch is in overall charge, it is definitely a community-based garden, with the general public actively invited and involved in its upkeep.

“We want to maintain the area as a memorial garden but also where all the local community will harness the use of a beautiful space.

“Having taken over the site, non-native plants have been removed and replaced with a colourful border with lots of pollinators and the flower beds have been revamped.

“This could never have been achieved without the help from the RBL members and Morrison’s staff, and the tremendous support from local residents and businesses.”

South Wales Argus: Miners' Corner (Picture: Angela Shipp)Miners' Corner (Picture: Angela Shipp)

Along with the new plants and raised beds, three pollinator areas have been introduced, along with a wildflower patch. There are also plans to add plants around the inside of the wall.

“We know that veterans with PTSD use it to help alleviate symptoms,” added Mr Veysey.

“It is also a place where children can learn about the different plants and why the bees and butterflies will visit.

"We have the older population who use it to do sitting exercises. It is open to anyone who just wants a quiet place to chill out.”

South Wales Argus: The community space after being developed (Picture: Royal British Legion) The community space after being developed (Picture: Royal British Legion)

Local groups are welcome to get involved – members from 5th Risca Scouts have painted bees and butterflies to brighten the fence; Risca Youth Club children have painted silhouettes depicting the armed forces; and there is a Miners’ Corner in memory of those who lost their lives in the local collieries.

Keep Wales Tidy have provided plants and equipment free of charge and all funding for the garden has come from donations from the public and two local councils.

The garden was officially opened on September 11, with Iain Jones of Risca RBL explaining the background behind the work and the reasons for it.

South Wales Argus: Iain Jones at the official opening (Picture: Simon Kear)Iain Jones at the official opening (Picture: Simon Kear)

Chair of Risca Town Council, Mike Parker, officially opened the garden and presided over the unveiling of two new benches. One of these were donated by William Hare Limited, a Risca firm. It depicts remembrance of the local mining community, the NHS and local children.

The other bench was provided by the family of Jason Bennett, a local businessman who passed away recently.

Jason was a staunch supporter of the aims of the British Legion and had a keen interest in military history. Steve Veysey, of Risca RBL, read out Jason’s story on behalf of the family.

South Wales Argus: The Bennett family with the memorial bench (Picture: Simon Kear)The Bennett family with the memorial bench (Picture: Simon Kear)

Around 100 people attended the event, with many donating which will allow planting of flowers to provide winter colour through to next spring.

Anyone who wants to get involved can get more information from Steve or Iain on FaceBook @PontywaunCSMG