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£1,000 cost to fix poppy blunder

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: June 18, 2014

  • Trilby Shaw and Caroline Cooper both from the 1914-18 Commemoration Group in Ashbourne Cemetery, where a council blunder saw an area sown with poppies cut down.

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A COUNCIL gaffe that saw thousands of commemorative poppies mown to pieces will cost taxpayers £1,000 to put right.

Derbyshire Dales District Council, which mistakenly sent workmen to mow up an area of Ashbourne Cemetery set aside for a colourful display next month, is shelling out on £1,000 poppy plants to make amends.

Trilby Shaw, one of a small team of organisers of the forthcoming 1914-1918 Commemoration Group, sowed 50,000 seeds in March, expecting the poppies to spring up in the cemetery off Mayfield Road around the time the nation marks the centenary of the start of the First World War and remembers those who lost their lives.

But, just as the seedlings were starting to make their appearance, a "communication breakdown" led to council workers missing an order not to mow the area where the seeds were growing.

Mrs Shaw said: "I'm absolutely devastated and I'm really mad about it because I'd spent the whole morning, trudging around in my mac scattering 50,000 poppy seeds for them to be mown up like this.

"This was going to be so beautiful, it was going to be our memorial for the town and when I found out what had happened I just felt sick.

"It makes us look a bit silly too as we've gone around telling everyone we've planted all these poppy seeds all over the place and to look out for a lovely display and now there just won't be one."

Derbyshire Dales District Council apologised for the mistake, explaining that the "vast majority" of its parks team were aware of the seeded area. However, a single member of the team who did not know about the poppies mowed the area of the cemetery that had been previously set aside.

Initially, the authority promised to send its staff straight out to sow seeds again but Stan Kaye, the founder of an online community which has set out to sow 100 million seeds around the country, called the council from his home in Cambridge when he spotted the News Telegraph's online story to warn bosses the seeds would not germinate in time.

Mr Kaye, whose Facebook group has attracted global attention, told the News Telegraph: "Poppies need to be planted in plenty of time.

"If they're sown in May, they might come out in August but the chances of these ones coming up in time if the council does sow them again is minimal.

"I'm so passionate about this that, when I saw the story, I'd have offered to come up from Cambridgeshire with 200,000 new seeds and plant them myself but unfortunately they just won't grow in time.

"Accidents happen, don't get me wrong, but the council needs to do something about this now and it needs to do it fast."

After speaking to Mr Kaye Derbyshire Dales District Council aborted its plan to re-sow the seeds and instead set about ordering 1,000 mature blooms which it will now have to plant by hand, one by one.

A spokesman said: "As we cannot be 100% certain that re-seeding the site will result in poppies flowering this summer, we have arranged to buy in 1,000 13cm potted poppy plants. The bottom line is we want to guarantee a flowering display in the cemetery in July.

"The plants will be delivered this week and, hopefully, planted by the weekend on the grassed area – and 1,000 should give a good display. The poppies that were unfortunately cut down will grow back next year to give an even bigger display."

Mrs Shaw said she was glad the council is trying to make amends but fears the poppies will take a lot of work to stay healthy if the weather remains dry. She said: "They're trying to make amends and they can plant 1,000 plants by all means, but we've just got to hope they look after them.

"It will be filling a gap for this year and I guess we've got to put up with that."

The council was alerted to the long grass in the cemetery following a complaint in the News Telegraph's letters page. Mary Ridley, who wrote in to complain about its over-grown state, said she wasn't surprised the poppies had been strimmed as the grass had been left to grow too long for the seedlings to poke through.

She said: "All I can say is that the workmen wouldn't be able to see them as the grass was so long.

"The workmen were there cutting and strimming it, so, now it is one almighty mess."

In spring 2013, the district council came under fire for a similar error that saw an area of protected churchyard at St Oswald's Church in Mayfield Road obliterated while daffodils were still in bloom.

Ashbourne's Royal British Legion chairman Tony Millward, himself a district councillor, said he was disgusted the mistake had happened again.

He said: "We already had this happen the one time last year and now it's happened again.

"I'm not happy at all"

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