Steve Lees from Northumberland has spent the last six months creating a commemorative garden on the grounds of St Cuthbert’s church in Blyth so that other veterans have somewhere to go and reflect.
The 51-year-old blind veteran started the project at the beginning of the lockdown period. Steve came up with the idea so that the garden would be ready in time for Armistice Day on Wednesday 11 November.
He says: “The commemorative garden will be a permanent feature in the community but I wanted to make sure that it was ready for Armistice Day. Blind Veterans UK and the Royal British Legion have both given wreaths which we will be laid down in the garden”.
"I’ve had some great feedback from those who have used the garden – it’s great to be able to give something back."Steve
Due to the lockdown restrictions, it has been difficult to involve others in the renovation of the garden but Steve is hoping that the local community will be able to get involved once it is safe to do so. He says: “There’s always something new to add to the garden and what has been done needs to be maintained. It would be great to arrange some local school projects and get the local children involved. The garden is for the community so it would be good for others to have an input.
Steve served in the Parachute Regiment of the Army for three years until he was shot during a training exercise in America and had to be medically discharged. He lost his sight when he had a stroke which caused him to develop Homonymous Hemianopia. Fortunately Steve found Blind Veterans UK and started receiving support in 2016.
The charity have provided Steve with equipment to help him with everyday tasks and before lockdown, he regularly visited their training and rehabilitation centre in Llandudno. He says: “Blind Veterans UK have given me a mobile phone and kitchen appliances which have all been a great help to me. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have access to any of this – they are a fantastic support”.
“The charity have always been there for me and have been a great support, especially during lockdown. It’s reassuring to know that they are there and I can’t speak highly of them enough”.