SCHOOLchildren, church goers and members of the Royal family have joined a campaign to create a carpet of poppies across Oxfordshire.

People across the county are being urged to plant poppies to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

This month the Oxford Mail has 5,000 packets of poppy seeds to giveaway so people can pay their own tribute to the brave soldiers who lost their lives in the conflict.

Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard said: “Poppies give a powerful, universal message about sacrifice and courage.

“I’m delighted that the Oxford Mail is taking this significant initiative, just as we are in the Diocese of Oxford where we have asked all our 622 parishes to take similar action.”

He added: “We will remember them.”

Planting poppy seeds has already begun in earnest.

The Oxford Diocese, which covers Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, has sent a packet of seeds to every church and church school in its patch – that’s 815 churches and 284 schools.

It is part of a national campaign by the Church of England and the Royal British Legion to get a patch of poppies growing in every church and church school to mark the centenary of the Great War breaking out.

This week, seven children from North Hinksey CofE Primary School and parishioners from Steeple Aston sowed their seeds. Headteacher Sally Wheatley said: “The children and I were invited to participate in a poppy seed planting ceremony by Church House in North Hinksey to commemorate the 100 years since the beginning of the First World War.

“Together with the staff of Church House we planted the seeds of one packet of poppy seeds into some prepared ground.”

She added: “Every year we collect for the British Legion by selling poppies. Children are very familiar with the poppy as a symbol of suffering and of hope for the future.

“In school over the next few months activities will be planned to develop children's understanding.”

The Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Rev Colin Fletcher, planted poppy seeds in a special bed in the grounds of St Peter and St Paul Church, Steeple Aston.

He was helped by about 30 school children from nearby Dr Radcliffe’s CofE Primary School, and members of the congregation.

The planting forms part of village plans to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, which will also include a Vigil Service on August 4.

Bishop Colin said he hopes the poppy-bed will be blooming by then.

He said: “We had about 30 children from Steeple Aston helping – I looked across at the war memorial and on that memorial from that village alone there were a similar number of names.

“They were people’s great-great- grandfathers, or in some cases for some of the oldest members of the village, their grandfathers.

“It’s not a celebration, but it’s marking it with dignity. We can celebrate in 2018 the end of the First World War.

“This year is for commemoration, prayer and quietness.”

Fiona Craig, deputy director of education for the Diocese of Oxford, said: “It is so important that we help children to understand the significance of the First World War and the bravery of those who died fighting.

“Planting and watching poppies grow is a memorable way of marking this centenary for youngsters in our Church schools.”

Starting the diocese’s commemoration, The Earl of Essex, Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, scattered seeds outside Dorchester Abbey during their royal visit to the county on Friday, April 25.

Later this year, a series of special church services will take place to mark the date – August 4, 1914 – when Britain joined the conflict.

  • To claim your free poppy seeds, buy a copy of the OxfOrd Mail, fill out the voucher on page 12 and present it to one of the participating stores.