Last July, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall officially opened the 20 wooden camping pods which are free for service personnel, veterans and their families to use during holidays and at weekends, in the heart of the New Forest, near Brockenhurst.
The demand has been so great that the Poppy Pods are fully booked until September 2017, and new membership applications have been deferred until January 2018.
Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, Councillor Andrew Gibson, said: “It is wonderful to see that the Poppy Pods have been so well received by military personnel, veterans and their families - enjoying some rest and relaxation in such a tranquil setting.
“These pods are here in perpetuity to recognise and remember the sacrifices made and faced by the Armed Forces Community. The first 1,000 members is a great achievement and it excitingly marks Tile Barn’s Armed Forces legacy in the 21st century, with the hope that member numbers will continue to grow. Congratulations to all the staff who have played a part in this success over the last 12 months.”
Sophie Cooper from Poole in Dorset, stayed in a Poppy Pod with her Royal Marine husband Simon, and sons, nine year old Jaiden and four year old Elliot. She said: “We enjoy camping as a family so when I spotted the Poppy Pods in a publication, it was the perfect option with being near to home, and knowing that Simon can be deployed without much notice.
“We had a really peaceful weekend in our Pod, and it was great knowing that we were close to amenities on site, as well as restaurants a little further afield. I’ve recommended them to my military friends.”
The Poppy Pods signify a new chapter in Tile Barn’s military history, with more than 21,000 troops from New Zealand and India treated at the former hospital site from 1916 to 1919.
The solar-powered and accessible Poppy Pods were funded by £250,000 from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund and £50,000 from the Brockenhurst branch of the Royal British Legion. Each Poppy Pod is named after a World War I battle, from Amiens to Ypres, and pine seeds from Gallipoli have been planted nearby.
The creation of the Poppy Pods was inspired by the BBC programme ‘The Choir’ with Gareth Malone, which provided an insight into the fears and isolation of military wives as their husbands and partners served in Afghanistan. Staff wanted to re-create the feeling of community for military families at Tile Barn, building on the site’s military history, adventure activities and camping offer.
For more information visit the Poppy Pods webpage