For the second time, the churchyard at St. Mary’s Parish Church has been awarded Churchyard of the Year, in the South & South-East section of the Britain In Bloom competition. Last time was in 2015 when the team looking after the churchyard achieved a Silver-Gilt award. This time they have bettered this with a Gold Award, 174 points out of a possible 200.
The Britain In Bloom judges made the following comments:
The churchyard covers approximately 4 acres with some closed areas and an open area in current use. Maintenance of the closed areas is the responsibility of the District Council which they discharge by paying the church. The church employ someone part time in the spring and summer to cut the grass in the largest closed area and the volunteers, of which there are about 10, do the rest.
The plans for additional noticeboards have been thwarted at the moment whilst appropriate permission is sought from the various authorities. It is important that the permissions are sought vigorously as the information able to be given to visitors about the churchyard and the activities of the volunteers will be most valuable.
Over the last few years the maintenance team have become more aware of the needs of wildlife and have started leaving areas untended, particularly around the perimeters. They are trying to establish a wildflower bank if they could plant some yellow rattle in the area it will help reduce the vigour of the existing grasses. There are plans to build a “dead hedge” which will help recycle as much as possible and reuse more of the branches and arisings from tree work. The volunteers are aware of the need to recycle as much as possible and manage compost heaps where grass cuttings and compostable waste from other bins around the churchyard are disposed of.
There are a number of benches around the churchyard that are well maintained by the volunteers. The colourful border of perennials and shrubs alongside the path leading to the open burial ground ia growing well in places but still needs care to fully establish. The volunteers are working on a difficult sloping site with poor sandy soil and are to be commended for the pleasant, attractive, bio-diverse area they maintain.