COMMUNITY groups from across the region have welcomed the launch of a fund to improve the landscape around war memorials and gardens.

The North of England Horticultural Society is offering awards of up to £500 to community groups and societies to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The society, which runs the spring and autumn Harrogate Flower Shows, said while there had been a lot of interest in the grants, it had not set a limit on the amount of its proceeds it would offer organisations from Yorkshire to Northumberland.

Shows director Nick Smith said: “We wanted to offer communities across the region the opportunity to apply for a contribution towards ensuring that their memorials can remain a place of peace and beauty for years to come.”

Groups including the North East War Memorial Project (NEWMP) and the War Memorials Trust have welcomed the grants, saying while up to ten per cent of memorials are in poor condition, many others had their surrounding areas damaged by events such as flooding.

The trust said the majority of the war memorials in poor condition are associated with the First World War.

Trust director Frances Moreton said: “We always welcome efforts to look after war memorials, but we would hope that everyone who plans to work looks at the advice of English Heritage and ourselves on our website to ensure it is appropriate.”

NEWMP chairman Janet Brown added: “More often than not parish councils have the responsibility to look after war memorials, but everybody is strapped for cash, so any grants to enable authorities to do something would be very welcome.”

The launch of the funds comes as scores of memorials across the region are being revamped or prepared for events to mark D-Day today and the outbreak of the First World War in August.

Projects include a £2,000 facelift at Ferrryhill’s war memorial, while in Chester-le-Street a monument is set to be erected where the Civic Heart arch previously stood.

In Sowerby, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, where residents have planned a series of events to mark the centenary in August, councillors said they would apply for a grant from the society to ensure the memorial looked its best for the milestone.

Hambleton District Council leader, Councillor Mark Robson said: “Any town or parish will welcome this grant to help mark the occasion and honour those who fought.”

The deadline for grant applications is Monday 16 June 2014. For more information and application forms, please visit