A HAMPSHIRE holiday spot for Armed Forces families will now be home to a communal hub after it received a £50,000 funding boost.
The generous donation from the Brockenhurst branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) will finance the new addition at the Poppy Pod camping village, at Hampshire County Council’s Tile Barn Outdoor Centre in the New Forest.
Acting primarily as a base for visitors to come together in the evenings, the new hub will also serve as an outdoor classroom and a venue for events such as the annual Australia and New Zealand Army Corps Day commemorations.
The village will house 20 solar-powered, accessible wooden pods providing free holiday and respite facilities for Service personnel, veterans and their families and bookings will be taken from Easter onwards.
It is located on the site of “Tin Town”, where local people treated Indian and New Zealand First World War troops in tented and galvanised units.
Retired Royal Navy Captain Mike Matthews, chairman of Brockenhurst RBL, said: “This project not only has links to the past, but will also offer a welcome respite for our serving Armed Forces men and women, veterans and their families, of all abilities, so they can take a well-deserved break as a family, in one of the most beautiful spots in the country.
“No.1 New Zealand General Hospital was located on Tile Barn Hill during the First World War and had an impressive rehabilitation record. Over 21,000 wounded evacuees from the Western Front were cared for with only 94 succumbing to their injuries. They are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in the adjacent St Nicholas Churchyard.”
With more than 30,000 military personnel based in Hampshire, the New Forest haven will provide a convenient destination for holidaying Service families.
Coun Andrew Joy, Hampshire County Council’s Armed Forces champion, welcomed the “wonderful news”, commenting: “We place enormous value on our long and close relationship with the Forces. These new facilities at Tile Barn will help recognise and remember the sacrifices made and faced by the Armed Forces community.”
Priority for the facilities at Tile Barn will be given to Service personnel and their families, who can stay for free on weekends and during holidays. Members of the public and school groups will also have access to the site at a charge.
The £300,000 project was brought to life thanks to a £250,000 award from the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme. Hampshire County Council gave its backing in March 2014, with planning permission from the New Forest National Park Authority following in January 2015.
Capt Matthews added: “Hampshire County Council’s drive to provide free rehabilitative breaks for service personnel and their families, including those with disabilities, resonates historically and emotionally with the members of my Brockenhurst Branch of the RBL, and we felt it would also have found favour with the two generous ladies who left the Branch handsome legacies in their wills.”