Birthday of accident victim Poppy Sparks marked with memorial bench at Leigh Park

A special memorial 17th birthday for the late 'Poppy' Payton Lee Sparkes was held at Staunton Country Park.  Lisa Garner, with her boyfriend Joe Spencer  beside a newly placed bench ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (141205-0186) PPP-140422-182226003
A special memorial 17th birthday for the late 'Poppy' Payton Lee Sparkes was held at Staunton Country Park. Lisa Garner, with her boyfriend Joe Spencer beside a newly placed bench ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (141205-0186) PPP-140422-182226003
Alex Wardle, from Lee-on-the-Solent, collapsed at home and tragically died in March 2016, aged 23. 

From left: Alex's father, Stephen Wardle, sister Gemma Wardle, Alex Wardle and his mother, Denise Wardle.

Gosport family to keep Alex’s legacy alive by taking part in Great South Run

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THE sun bathed a beauty spot in warmth as the family of Payton Sparks unveiled a memorial bench on what would have been her 17th birthday.

The teenager, known as Poppy, was killed when her boyfriend crashed a stolen car into the wall of Staunton Country Park, off Petersfield Road, Leigh Park, last May.

Lewis Young was high on drink and drugs at the time and was jailed for eight years last October.

As reported, Poppy’s mum Lisa Garner, 36, is supporting The News danger driver campaign for tougher penalties for those who kill on the roads.

But she was determined that her daughter’s birthday would be one of laughter and hope.

The newly-placed bench overlooks the lake at Staunton with views out into the East Hampshire countryside.

It includes a photo of Poppy and the inscription, ‘shine bright my stunning daughter’.

Lisa said: ‘I wanted it to be bright and happy, like Payton.

‘This is such a peaceful, calm place and somewhere people can go to think of her.

‘I know her friends will be here all the time.

‘I can’t believe she would have been 17. I can’t even imagine her at that age because she was young for her age. She was really babyish. She was like my little baby.

‘We were together all day until she went out with her friends. They are great. We have all really come together.’

Although it was overcast and rainy yesterday, the sun blazed for the 30-minute ceremony.

Dozens of balloons were then let off.

Kerry Crook, 15, said: ‘It was a brilliant turnout with all Payton’s close friends.

‘We let lanterns and balloons off on the 25th of each month.

‘It’s coming up to her year anniversary and we will be coming up here to get away from everything.

‘It’s a calm and peaceful place where we can just think about her, just think nice thoughts about her.

‘She was just such a lovely girl.’