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If you’ve never been to the Garden, you are missing out. If you have, you’ll know that it warrants more than one visit as there’s simply too much to see and take in one day! With more than 50 life-size bronze statues of some of the most iconic figures in history, set in beautifully landscaped gardens, it is fast becoming one of the region’s worst kept secrets. Filled with the figures that inspired Heart of England Forest founder Felix Dennis, the garden started life way back in 1989 and over the ensuing 25 years gradually became populated with the extraordinary array of icons that grace it now.

While titans of the 20th century, such as Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia stand shoulder-to-shoulder with timeless cultural luminaries including William Shakespeare, Chuck Berry and Oscar Wilde, the significance of some of the figures may not be so readily obvious to those other than their particular admirers.

Ada Lovelace & Charles Babbage           Photo by Richard Price

Two such names that will not be so immediately recognisable might be those of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, although their work has had a huge bearing on our modern lives.  In 1843, Lovelace (the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron) translated a scientific paper by the Italian military engineer Luigi Menabrea, entitled ‘Sketch of an Analytical Engine’, and added 65 pages of footnotes to it that included the earliest complete computer programme. This rendered Lovelace the world’s first computer programmer at the age of just 27.

Meanwhile, Lovelace’s friendship and work with the inventor and mathematician Charles Babbage (who is often cited as the father of computing) sparked an invaluable union of hardware and software to which we owe enormous swathes of modern life, including the ability to read the words on this screen. See the pair at work near the entrance to the Garden of Heroes and Villains.

Rupert Brooke

 

One local hero whose greatest work was completed before his untimely death at the age of 27 was the poet Rupert Brooke, whose statue stands alone contemplating the written word. Born in nearby Rugby at the end of the 19th century, Brooke’s boyish good looks led fellow poet W.B. Yeats to label him ‘the handsomest man in England’.

Despite his death from sepsis brought on by an infected mosquito bite while travelling to the Middle East with the British army during World War One, Brooke had already completed the works that guaranteed him immortality; ‘The Soldier’ and ‘The Dead’ are among the greatest war poems ever written, and with Rupert Brooke buried far away on the Greek island of Skyros, there will always be one small corner of the Garden of Heroes and Villains that will be ‘forever Brooke’.

 

 

These are just a few of the famous faces to be found at the Garden. To spend some time ‘walking with giants’ come and discover who else is to be found there- there’s a surprise around every corner! The Garden of Heroes and Villains will be open on the following days throughout 2019, but don’t forget to book via heartofenglandforest.com/events;

 Saturday 29th June 10am-5pm

 Saturday 20th July 10am-5pm

 Thursday 8th August 5pm-9pm (Evening Opening)

 Saturday 24th August 10am-5pm

We will also be hosting an exclusive evening event in July, just for Friends of the Forest. Both long standing and brand new Friends are welcome to join us – another great reason to become a Friend of the Forest today. More details can be found on our events page

If you or your family visit the Garden of Heroes and Villains, we’d love to see your selfies or posed portraits with the fantastic array of famous figures. Share your pictures on our social media pages or drop us an email to info@hoef.co.ukand we’ll do it for you. Happy snapping!

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