THE ENTRANCE PATH AND WREATH LAYING AREA IN FRONT OF THE CROSS
Ideas for a formal entrance had been mooted for years and were finally discussed back in 2000. It was initially felt that a wall of a similar design to Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries could convey to visitors the message that the crater "is a special, sacred place, please treat it appropriately and respect others who wish to sit quietly and reflect on the momentous events that happened here."
An appeal was established to help raise the necessary funds and designs discussed throughout 2001-2. In the early 1990s Richard had agreed to have the site listed with the French Ministry of Cultural Affairs to prevent it being swallowed up by ribbon development along the lane to the Crater, with three new houses having been built in quick succession. 'Listing' means that no building can be done within 500m of the site but it also has its downside of the danger of being entangled in formidable French red tape.
The decision was finally taken to have a symbolic "wall" of mixed shrubs, to form a hedge, combined with metal picket posts and wooden "knife rests," a pathway of duck-boarding from the road passing between various small shell holes and the crater site proper was included to evoke a look of the original battlefield.
The work commenced soon after and the duck-boarding and knife rests were completed during the summer of 2004. The hedging was to be quite informal and made up of 4 types of plants; planting was commenced in spring 2005. The final work of laying kerb stones along the road edge by the car park was completed in spring 2006.
As at summer 2011, the entrance and pathway have weathered well but require regular cleaning and wood preservative treatment. The hedge is becoming established and when the plants are bigger we plan to remove the green metal fencing which has been maintained to protect the young plants.
The wreath laying area in front of the Cross has always been a very special and symbolic place. As such it was always prone to erosion and damage caused by the footfall of ever increasing numbers of visitors; some 250,000 per year according to recent estimations. Nearly all visitors stand here and take photographs or give their remembrance at this spot.
The winter of 2005/2006 took particular toll and a decision was taken to create a stepped and paved area in front of the Cross with the flat surfaces covered in stone chippings. This was duly commissioned, and the work was completed in the spring of 2006 by local and highly recommended builder Jerome Delaby.
The severe frosts and inclement winter weather experienced up at that exposed site had broken up some of the surfaces and extensive and costly work was required to rectify this.