About The Garden
The original Women’s Peace Camp on Greenham Common closed on 5 September 2000 after 19 years of continuous presence outside the Greenham Common Airbase now known as New Greenham Park.
The women believed that the events of this important period should be represented by a permanent reminder for posterity. It was envisaged that a small piece of the site which had been occupied would be turned into a Commemorative and Historic Site.
After the camp closed West Berkshire County Council granted planning permission to create the commemorative and historic site, later known as the Greenham Common Peace Garden sited at the yellow gate where the original protest began in 1981. This is now adjacent to the main business park entrance. The women envisaged the garden would create an opportunity to heal the breaches that developed between the protesters and the community of Newbury.
The Peace Garden
The Garden was designed by Roderick Griffin.
It depicts the four elements of earth, fire, water and air.
The garden incorporates a sculpture by Michael Marriott FRBS depicting flames – symbolising a campfire. Campfires being the source of much comfort for the protesters who were living outside in all kinds of weather.
The sculpture is surrounded by 7 standing stones from Wales representing the Welsh Group “Women for Life on Earth” who came from Cardiff. Some of whom were the first to set up a Peace Camp outside RAF Greenham Common Airbase.
Michael Marriott also designed the stone and steel spiral sculpture using Pennant sandstone from Wales. Written into the spiral is “Women’s Peace Camp 1981 – 2000” and the words “ You can’t kill the Spirit”. Water flows around the spiral in the stone representing the ‘reaching out’ work done from the Women’s Peace Camp campaigning against nuclear weapons.
There is also a simple garden for Helen Thomas who is the only woman mentioned in the site. Her life was taken when a West Midlands Horsebox drove too close to her whilst she stood on the safe zone waiting to cross a road near the camp.
The planting was carefully chosen to represent British Native plants including various bulbs and also an oak sapling rescued from the Newbury bypass.
The Peace Garden is situated on the area of land where, between the years of 1981-2000, an encampment of non-violent women who protested against plans for nuclear war was sited.
At the height of the Cold War between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, plans were made at NATO Headquarters to install 96 ground-launched cruise missiles at the Royal Air Force / United States Air Force Base here on Greenham Common. Each missile would have the explosive power of 16 Hiroshima bombs. They would be under the command of the United States Air Force.
On 27th August 1981, following a long tradition that includes Gandhi’s marches for justice and the US civil rights marches, the Welsh group ‘Women for life on Earth’ marched from Wales to Greenham Common. They arrived on 5th September 1981, to the protest the NATO plans. The Women’s Peace Camp was set up on this site and as the protest grew, other Camps formed around the perimeter fence. The camps became a focus for tens of thousands of women throughout the UK and internationally, to protest against war and nuclear weapons.
The missiles and their nuclear warheads began arriving on 14th November 1983 and were housed in hardened silos on the Common, from where the missiles were taken out for regular firing drills on Salisbury Plain. Each and every missile convoy exercise was non-violently disrupted by the women. Arrests, court cases and prison sentences followed.
The missiles and warheads were removed under the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed on 8th December 1987 by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev. The Treaty’s preamble, “Conscious that nuclear war would have devastating consequences for all mankind…”, is a testament to the impact of non-violent work by many thousands of women on Greenham Common. Between 1990-2, the missiles and US military personnel were returned to the US.
After 19 years of continuous non-violent protest, first against Cruise Missiles and later against the Atomic Weapons Establishments at Aldermaston and Burghfield, the Women’s Peace Camp closed on 5th September 2000.
The Peace Garden was inaugurated and opened to the public on 5th October 2002. Whether you can visit for minutes or hours, we hope the time you spend here will refresh your spirit. We hope you’ll take away inspiration, as well as an impression of the power of the powerless to redress the injustices of this world we share.
A ceremony took place on 9th November 2015 when Sara Hipperson, Co-Ordinator for Greenham Commemorative Fund Appeal Collective passed the responsibility for the upkeep of the Garden to the Greenham Common Trust. In attendance were some of the original women, Sue Lent, Beaty Smith and Ray Davies who walked from Cardiff to Greenham in 1981, and who are now members of the Cor Cochion Caerdydd (The Cardiff Reds Choir).
The choir sang ‘Mae gen i freuddwyd’ (I have a dream) and other peace songs whilst a maple tree was planted to mark the occasion by Greenham Common Trust Chief Executive, Chris Boulton. Sara Hipperson was joined by Mary Millington and others who devoted many years to the anti-nuclear struggle at the Women’s Peace Camp.
Members of The Greenham Common Commemorative Fund Appeal Collective were responsible for raising funds for the garden:
R. Bremer, A. Chard, L. Graydon, S Hipperson, J. Henjes, K.Howse, J. Hutchinson, M. Millington, I. Strang, J. Ekwurtzel, J. Thomas. F.Vigay, P. Walford, and E Wilson