Vivian Pedley working on huge artwork around the Tongswood war memorial

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The charitable people of Kent have put their best foot forward to come up with 800 pairs of shoes for an unusual new work of art to remember those who fell in World War One.

Artist Vivian Pedley said he needs to reach at least 2,500 pairs of shoes, and he doesn’t mind what condition they are in.

He plans to use the shoes to line a pathway to the Tongswood war memorial erected in Hawkhurst just after World War One.

Mr Pedley, from Cornwall, was struck by the beauty of the memorial,.

The exhibition circles around a war memorial in the grounds of the Tongswood Estate – now St Ronan’s School in Hawkhurst. The owners of the estate, Charles Gunther and his wife built the memorial after the Great War and the 14 men named on it worked on the estate, or were associated with it. They include two of Charles’ sons, Charles and Norman.

The artist said the poignant exhibition of sculptures will express the futures, hopes and dreams stolen by war.

His installation develops as you walk closer to the memorial site.

It opens with a sculpture trail incorporating the war poetry of Wilfred Owen which in turn leads to a walk of shoes, called We Could Have Walked with You.

He said: “This is a representation of the friends and descendants that these men never lived to have.

“These friends and descendants would have been the people of Kent. Therefore we are calling upon members of the community to bring forward as many old shoes as they can to make this major piece of work as intimate as possible.

“This is going to be a spectacular piece, but I need to reach a target of some 5,000 shoes, but in truth I would love to far exceed this. The bigger the number of shoes, the bigger the statement this work will make.

“I don’t mind if they are men’s, women’s or children’s shoes. They can be in any condition, dirty or broken, ones on their own or in pairs.

“I will accept anything, so dig out the old ballet shoes, smelly trainers and even ski boots.

“I need them all, and have even got some used for golf and a flipper.

“I am delighted by the huge response we have had already, but the enormity of the statement I wish to make would be underlined by the greatest number of shoes, so I need many, many more.”

Emma Davies, 39, co-owns the Walled Nursery, part of the estate, with her husband Monty. She said: “There is so much history to our estate and the war memorial is quite often not noticed.

“We strongly feel that the 14 men from the estate who lost their lives in World War One – and those who have died in all wars since - should not be forgotten.

“The bulk of the exhibition is contained within the walls of our nursery which is a rare surviving example of a Victorian walled kitchen garden.”

Anyone with shoes they wish to donate, can drop them off at The Walled Nursery, Water Lane, Hawkhurst, TN18 5DH, or the Old Haberdashery, 33a High Street, Ticehurst TN5 7AS.

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