On your marks for a Commonwealth summer in Staffordshire

Sports mania is set to hit Staffordshire this summer with families able to join in the fun as the Commonwealth Games arrives in the UK.

While Birmingham will be the host city, Cannock Chase Forest will be the venue for the mountain bike racing in August when some of the world’s top cyclists will be tackling Staffordshire’s world class mountain biking routes.

While there will be limited spectating opportunities for the races themselves, Staffordshire is planning a summer of family fun to celebrate the Games.

Leading the sporting line-up will be the National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance, which has launched new Commonwealth Games-inspired activities.

Visitors will be able to see new exhibitions, create a collaborative work of art, take part in guided walks and sporting activities, have a go at an augmented reality experience and tackle an outdoor escape challenge.

Presented as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, the Sports, Service and the Commonwealth programme celebrates Commonwealth communities, while highlighting the important role of sport within the Armed Forces.

Bringing the Arboretum to life in a new way for 2022, a free augmented reality experience, Commonwealth ARboretum, takes families on a journey to learn about the diverse communities and friendship of countries that take part in the Commonwealth Games.

Visitors to the Landscapes of Life Exhibition can pick up an iPad and join characters Blu, Kit and Sam for the 30-minute experience within the Remembrance Centre, which runs until 4 September.

For a chance to take part in their own Commonwealth Games, families can participate in free sporting activities at The Arboretum Games (9 July – 4 September), while at the Commonwealth Outdoor Escape Challenge, groups can solve cryptic puzzles to discover the stories behind some of the memorials dedicated to Commonwealth communities (from £12 per group, and running until 30 October).

For younger visitors, a special sticker trail, inspired by the Queen’s Baton Relay, invites families to find eight batons linked to memorials spread across the 150-acre site, with each baton revealing a fact about a Commonwealth community. The trail costs £2.50 and runs until 4 September.

And the Arboretum will also be one of the venues welcoming the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay on its journey around the UK.

With just eight days to go before the start of Birmingham 2022, the visit, on 20 July 2022, is set to be a highlight of the Arboretum’s summer, and several Baton bearers will carry the baton as it makes its way across the site.

Elsewhere in Staffordshire, the Queen’s Baton will also visit Tamworth and Lichfield on the same day, followed by a free evening of entertainment in the grounds of Tamworth Castle featuring stage demonstrations, community games, sports performances, singers and tribute acts.

The National Memorial Arboretum, at Alrewas, near Lichfield, welcomes over 300,000 visitors a year, who can discover more than 400 memorials amongst around 25,000 trees, experience riverside walks, take a guided walk, or hop aboard a land train tour. Entry to the Arboretum is free, but visitors are advised to book in advance.

For more details about the Arboretum, see https://thenma.org.uk

Tourist information about visiting, and staying in, Staffordshire is available at http://www.enjoystaffordshire.com

Photo: Commonwealth ARboretum AR experience – credit National Memorial Arboretum

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    Armed Forces Memorial - National Memorial Arboretum