House Lane Churchyard of the Parish of St Leonard’s Sandridge
31st July 2022
This article is reproduced from the latest edition of the Sandridge Parish Magazine on behalf of the Vicar and PCC.
In the village we are fortunate to have a beautiful churchyard which is still open for burial. This is part of the church and is owned and managed by it. Unlike a civic cemetery, families do not ‘own’ the grave and therefore all of the churchyard is covered by regulations set by the Diocese. You can find information about our churchyards and the regulations on our website.
When I moved to Sandridge one of the first things I was approached about was the poor state of the churchyard, and since then much progress has been made. The ‘hedges’ were cut back (they turned out to be mainly ivy unfortunately). This has improved visibility and safety. It has also exposed the original railings which are in a very poor state, so that’s on the ‘to do’ list. The large patch of brambles has been cleared, the ivy stripped from some 100 older graves and the gates painted. Two wonderful volunteers mow the grass between the graves when they can. This is however made difficult by the numbers of items on the ground, which then get damaged or damage the equipment. We are about to have some essential work done to a few of the trees. This will eventually include removing some trees from graves and having been able to track down the families, we thank them for their co-operation with this. We are also intending to have new noticeboards which will permanently display the regulations and be a place for current notices.
In July we were offered the chance to have a biodiversity study of the churchyard conducted. This is the starting point the Diocese recommends before putting into action things to improve a churchyard. Churchyards are actually a unique habitat – an oasis where no pesticides have ever been used and where wildlife can often live protected as the environment is not disturbed. Plants are often left to grow taller and gravestones are a primary habitat for lichen. The Church of England and St Leonard’s are committed to doing whatever we can to preserve and maintain those areas of land we own, for the good of us all.
We were advised urgently to remove plastic flowers and solar lights (which in any case are not permitted), because they could affect insect behaviour, and this was done so that the survey could begin. Unfortunately, it was not possible to contact all the families affected – we are not permitted under Data Protection law to hold families’ contact details. We are planning on setting up a separate email account for families to register with if they wish to be contacted about the churchyard. It is regrettable that the only container large enough to hold the items removed was an unused wheelie bin, and I am sorry for the impression this gave. The intention was simply to keep them safe and in one place.
By the time you read this, the removed items will be in the church which is open daily at least 10-3, and often longer. We would ask that they are collected by the end of August please. After this, we will box them up and store them safely elsewhere.
In both January and April this magazine carried articles asking that items including fake flowers and solar lights or candles be removed from graves. Unhappily, it seems that some families did not see these. If you know anyone who tends a grave and is unlikely to see the magazine then please pass it to them, or suggest they get added to the mailing list by emailing Christine at email@example.com. As those articles said, we would love for families to maintain graves by planting bulbs and suitable plants, and we are happy to advise on this.
The church is sorry for the distress that this situation has caused to some people. It really was not our intention to upset anyone. If you have any comments, please send them to me. If you are interested in learning more about the wildlife study, more information will be available on the church website.
Rev Wendy Sellers