Thanks to all those who came to the working party last Wednesday to open up the woodland at the south-east corner of the churchyard. Already this area looks better, is safer and more accessible – if you haven’t been there lately do go and take a look. Once it has had a couple of weeks to settle we need to decide how to make this area more attractive and welcoming for the future. Please send any ideas on how to do we might do this to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We had so many people join us that we were also able to start clearing some of the neglected graves, and one of these has already been adopted – that is, someone has agreed to plant it up appropriately and keep it in order in future. There are a number of graves in the churchyard which no longer have friends or relatives to care for them; if you are interested in adopting one of these please also contact email@example.com to discuss the possibilities.
There is a band of woodland at the far east end of the churchyard – a sort of long thin copse with a small clearing near one end. It would be an attractive peaceful place but at present access is difficult because of overgrown nettles, brambles etc. and the clearing is cut off from view by undergrowth.
We have kindly been given the services of a professional gardener for a day on Wednesday 4th August to do some clearing to improve access and open up the area to public view to encourage visitors and discourage antisocial behaviour. If we could have a team of volunteers to help him we could get a lot done.
If you would like to take part please email firstname.lastname@example.org. so we know how many to expect for refreshments and lunch. Don’t worry if you can only manage a short while – it will still make a huge difference. Stout shoes, gloves and clothes which cover legs and arms are recommended; if you can bring gardening tools so much the better.
As a next step in becoming a more ecologically aware and environmentally friendly church, may I invite you to an informal meeting on Thursday 29th April at 7.00 pm. The meeting will be open to anyone, but could I ask that you email email@example.com so that I can send a personal Zoom invitation. There are some Eco-Church events coming up in the diocese on the 8th and 13th May and you can find more details about these on the Canterbury Diocese website. Please let me know if you would like to play a part in these important next steps.
Following the public meetings in July and August and a site visit by a council officer the PCC of St Stephen’s has agreed to the work recommended to remove or prune unhealthy and dangerous trees and the legal process to allow this to take place is underway. All being well we hope this work will be completed by the end of the winter, changing the appearance of the churchyard and making it much more open and accessible. We can then start to think of a longer term management strategy.
The PCC was also in favour of the idea of encouraging wider involvement of the community in caring for and enjoying the churchyard, and we are currently exploring the best legal framework to enable this to happen. Our new organisation will also need a name – there was concern that the working title “Friends of St Stephen’s Churchyard” might cause confusion with the existing Friends of St Stephen’s. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any bright ideas for a good title for the group.
The PCC also welcomed the idea of an “adopt a grave” scheme under which individuals, families and groups could take responsibility for planting and managing one of the many graves no longer tended by families in ways which will enhance the beauty of the churchyard and also its biodiversity. Again there are procedural and organisational issues to be sorted out, but we hope that by early spring next year we will be able to launch the new organisation and an “adopt a grave” scheme. If this all goes well we plan a celebration on Rogation Sunday, May 17th, a traditional time when the church gives thanks for nature and prays for a good harvest.
Further updates will be circulated when there is more news, and we are applying for permission for a temporary noticeboard in the churchyard where information on plans for the churchyard can also be posted.