Living Churchyards

I FINALLY developed the roll of 35mm that's been hidden inside my Yashica since New Year!!! (Awful effort at taking more photos! Must try harder!)

These two are actually very recent ones that I took at the Tunbridge Wells Woodbury Park Cemetery. It's a beautiful "Arcadian" Victorian cemetery (with the latest grave being from the 1930's) which is a refuge for all kinds of wildlife. Because it was originally carved out of grassland it retains a wide variety of plant life that is becoming rarer in towns. It also has a thriving bird collection, from song thrushes to greenfinches! We, however, also found it to be popular with Cats (the white one certainly made me jump!)

These fit in nicely with the "Living Churchyard" project I have been looking into. The National 'Living Churchyards and Cemeteries' scheme wants local communities to get involved in the management of their churchyards for the benefit of wildlife as well as the local congregation and visitors. In many churchyards lie the potential for beautiful wild flower meadows and patches of woodland. Also, the older gravestones provide a thriving environment for rare or unusual lichen (modern marble headstones cannot be naturally weathered, and no moss or lichen can attach to them). There are also the options for a "Green Burial" with cardboard coffins being used, I'm sure it is hard for some people to become comfortable with their bodies becoming compost, but at least you're being very useful to the environment!

Personally, I can't think of anything nicer than a churchyard full of wildlife, however, many local parishes have postponed the idea incase the place starts looking messy or dilapidated, not a good enough reason in my book. If the paths are kept clear and families can have the option to keep their own graves how they would prefer, i don't see how ANY church could turn down this scheme. Lets face it, so many of the older graves aren't even visited any more, if it wasn't for the volunteers, they wouldn't be tended at all! I cant see why all churches can't at least have a designated area for uninterrupted growth!

Churchyards are very often the last remaining sites of ancient medieval grasslands, and are sometimes the only green spaces available to town communities. The Victorian style of cemetery (such as Woodbury Park) were built with a similar purpose in mind! Ivy is another speciality of cemeteries, and when completely untended they often look as if they have been engulfed by it. The Victorians were particularly fond of ivy as a ground cover and to create atmosphere: they even incorporated ivy motifs into many of their headstones.

Personally, I would find both visiting and being buried in a place full of wildlife a FAR more pleasant idea than in a soulless inter-city plot.

These pictures are from the churchyard at Offchurch, Warwickshire. HERE are some examples of the Living Churchyard projects in Warwickshire, I think more southern locations need to take note!!

Thanks for reading!



Ginger said...

Great post, I love this idea. I also like the idea of a green burial and hope it becomes more acceptable.

love the photo with the kitty.

Katie B said...

Thank you so much! I'm glad to hear i'm not the only one who can't see a down-side to it! I was really happy with the white cat photo, he certainly did make me jump!