The Memorial Gardens are an extremely popular spot for lunch breaks with Town Centre workers and shoppers, as they offer a haven of peace and quiet in the middle of the busy Town Centre. The gardens have a fine selection of mature trees, shrubs and flowers.
There is a large enclosed play area for children to let off steam near County Mall Shopping Centre, where the nearest lavatories are located. Parking is available in nearby County Mall, Parkside, Kingsway and Town Hall car parks.
Shortly after the end of the First World War in 1921, the local community raised the funds to purchase the land for the Memorial Gardens, so that it could be kept as a public recreation ground, in memory of those who lost their lives during the Great War. The epitaph gates at the top end of the park list those members of the community that lost their lives. The Memorial Gardens are now held in Trust by Crawley Borough Council.
There are a number of mosaic pieces of public art, created by the Lewes based mosaic artist, Marion Brandis. The main features are a mosaic covered central planter and a mosaic seat which are designed around the themes of Transport and Peace.
The theme of transport has clear associations with the town, in Gatwick Airport, the George Coaching Inn and the London to Brighton Veteran Car run, which goes through the High Street every year. However, through combining this with the use of the `Doves of Peace' symbolism, it remains in keeping with the spirit of the Memorial Gardens.
Within the Memorial Gardens, there is a large circular bed which used to be planted with roses, shrubs, and seasonal bedding. Following successive years of dry conditions and poor plant performance, a decision was made to work with environmental change and replant the whole bed, creating a drought tolerant and low maintenance garden.
The garden was designed by Martyn Hird and the interpretation boards were sponsored by Southern Water.
Art students from Crawley College designed some fantastic fish sculptures which were manufactured in various metals by engineering students and installed in August 2005.
Many of the trees in the Memorial Gardens have wonderful autumn colour; particularly the Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) which produces brilliant autumn colours ranging from bright scarlet to deep red, lemon and purple, and a spectacular row of Acers on the north side of the park.
There is also a Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), one of the few conifers which sheds its needles in autumn. The needles turn a bright russet brown before falling to the ground.
One of the largest trees in the park, which is listed as a champion tree in Sussex, is a poplar called the Balm of Gilead (Populus x candicans ). In the spring the tree's buds exude a sticky substance or balsam, which has a heady sweet smell that can scent the surrounding air on hot days.
You will also find a Handkerchief Tree (Davidia involucrata) which gets its name from its white flowers that appear in the spring. They look like white handkerchiefs hanging from the branches.
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