Published: 10:15, 18 June 2021
| Updated: 10:32, 18 June 2021
Dame Vera Lynn's links to the White Cliffs of Dover will be celebrated forever more now two sections of the landmark have been re-named after her.
The gestures - befitting the 1940s forces sweetheart - were unveiled ahead of the first anniversary of the star's death today.
The Dame Vera Lynn memorial unveiled during ceremony
It means from now on visitors to Dover can ascend the iconic cliffs from the seafront by walking along Dame Vera Lynn Way.
And further along the cliff top is a tranquil meadow - now named Dame Vera Lynn Down - which is dedicated to her as a thank you for helping the National Trust acquire the land for wildlife and songbirds.
Dame Vera has long been associated with the cliffs since her famous songs gave hope to a country at war.
Lyrics included ‘there’ll be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover’ and ‘the valley will bloom again’.
The two projects were spearheaded by different parties and were brought together to commemorate her death.
Last year Dover town councillor Graham Wanstall asked Dover District Council to back his campaign to get a section of the North Downs Way re-named.
He was supported immediately by Dover council's leader Cllr Trevor Bartlett and the Dame's daughter wrote him a letter of support.
It involved a new sign being made up and installed, and although it was at minimal cost to Dover council, it has maximum sentiment that Cllr Wanstall says will be felt for generations.
Speaking at a ceremony for both re-naming projects Dame Vera's daughter Virginia Lewis-Jones said she thought the name for the walkway was "super".
She added: “The re-naming of the footpath to Dame Vera Lynn Way is a touching tribute as my mother always remarked the white cliffs were the last landmark seen as the boys went off to war and the first they saw when they returned home.”
Cllr Wanstall, who walked along the path with Mrs Lewis-Jones after it was unveilled, said: "I think it was very important to remember Dame Vera Lynn because of her close association with Dover and the White Cliffs.
"It came to me suddenly one night: 'why not name the footpath that links the town with the White Cliffs'.
"The connection is obvious. I did a survey - even the seagulls agreed it was a good idea!"
He likes the idea that it links the town to the National Trust - permanent guardians of the cliff top - and the charity that initiated the second re-naming.
In 2017, Dame Vera lent her support to a £1million fundraising campaign by the National Trust to buy 178 acres of arable land on the clifftops.
The wheatfield, which was part of the purchase, is now being returned to its original grassland state and is already filled with wildflowers, including ox-eye daisy, wild carrot and viper’s bugloss, and attracting corn buntings and skylarks, the nation’s songbird.
Mrs Lewis-Jones said: “My mother would be absolutely delighted to have the wildflower meadow named after her, especially as she proactively supported the National Trust’s campaign to protect the landscape back in 2017. She always loved having flowers around her and was a keen gardener for many decades."
Ginny Portman, general manager at the National Trust, said: “Dame Vera Lynn is held in great affection in our hearts and we hope that she would be proud to know her name is now memorialised at the White Cliffs, providing lasting memories for those who visit, and a haven for our rare and treasured wildlife.
"It is fitting that the fields she helped save are now home to the skylark and its beautiful, melodic song.”
Cllr Trevor Bartlett, the Leader of Dover District Council, said: “Dame Vera will always have a place in the heart of Dover for both her unstinting work to support our armed forces and veterans community, and also her enduring relationship with preserving the iconic landscape and natural beauty of the White Cliffs of Dover which is so carefully protected and nurtured by the National Trust.”
The Trust and council further marked the anniversary with a special switching-on of the South Foreland Lighthouse, which has been lit only three times in 33 years.
The Victorian lighthouse was the first to use an electric light and was designed to warn mariners of shifting sands and guide them into the Strait of Dover.
It was decommissioned in 1988 but was lit yesterday evening, (Thursday), with special permission from the Trinity House Lighthouse Authority and HM Coastguard, in honour of Dame Vera Lynn.
The beam of light was switched on at dusk by her daughter and shone over the English Channel throughout the night. It was the first time the lighthouse has been lit since 2018, when it was reactivated to mark the First World War Centenary.
It comes as a fundraising appeal is expected to be launched today to pay for a multi-million pound memorial in her honour.
Sited at the Western Heights beauty spot, Dover District Council has been urgently working on a bid to the government's Levelling Up Fund - the deadline of which is today.
The town already has a small silhouette of Dame Vera at the Portrait Bench on the seafront.
After her death last year the, Kentonline's publishers the KM Media Group commissioned a tribute to be projected on the White Cliffs of Dover using the lyrics of the song that linker her to the town.