MEMORIAL gardens are to be built at two crematoria in Wiltshire to remember people who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Westerleigh Group, the UK’s largest independent owner-operator of crematoria and cemeteries, will provide the gardens at the North Wiltshire Crematorium at Royal Wootton Bassett and the West Wiltshire Crematorium at Semington.

The company's intention is to create a memorial garden at each of its 34 sites across the UK.

Roger Mclaughlan, chief executive of Westerleigh Group, said: “These gardens will be tranquil places for people to visit and remember loved ones who died during the pandemic, and to pay tribute to those who sacrificed so much to help others who were sick, isolated or vulnerable.

“The centre-piece of each garden will be a stone monument surrounded by a floral arrangement representing a rainbow, which has become a symbol of hope during the pandemic.

“Many people have put pictures of rainbows in their windows during the lockdown, to cheer up passers-by and to offer a bright message of hope.

“Our rainbows will be created using the vibrant colours of Begonias, Petunias and Geraniums.”

The stone at the centre of the memorial gardens will be made from all-polished black granite and is a typical traditional memorial for remembrance but with a Westerleigh change of design. The memorials will be individually carved by Westerleigh’s highly-skilled stonemasons.

Work is expected to begin on the stone memorials in the autumn with garden landscaping taking place in early spring after suitable locations have been identified by the crematoria teams.

The gardens are expected to open mid-to-late spring 2021.

Mr Mclaughlan added: “We are proud that all our crematoria have close links with their local communities, and we therefore thought it would be an appropriate gesture to create these permanent and lasting memorials.

“They will be special place places where people can remember and reflect on the loved ones they have lost, and give thanks to the wonderful way that the NHS, key workers and whole communities pulled together during this unprecedented crisis.

“As this project progresses, we will be reaching out to our local communities to help shape and finalise our plans.”