A Graveyard Matter

13th March 2019
Guest blog by Chris Riley from Cressage, Shropshire
Friends of Cressage Churchyard
Friends of Cressage Churchyard

As a recent incomer to Cressage, I have wanted to involve myself usefully with local people in the local community. Then I saw that our churchyard was to receive a visit from the charity Caring for God’s Acre. This organisation, based in Craven Arms, helps maintain and conserve churchyards all over Shropshire and beyond. Here was my opportunity to get involved so I became one of five local, vocal and enthusiastic volunteers meeting Alex (from the charity) at the church.

Alex explained how older churchyards like ours had suffered less from modern horticultural methods than agricultural land and gardens had, often being undisturbed for centuries; as a result, even if it would take some concerted effort from us volunteers to reveal them, there were likely to be many wild grasses and flowers and habitats for wildlife in our very own churchyard, largely undisturbed since the mid-1800s. He took us round the site, pointing out features such as ivy and elder that needed to be cut back from walls, gravestones and trees; the hedge that needed trimming; the long grass that required strimming or scything, with the grass cuttings then removed to reduce the fertility of the soil to benefit wild flowers. Heaps of branches would benefit wildlife for nesting and protection from predators.

We set to work that day and again a week later to great effect (we think, anyway). Clear improvements were visible on the stone front wall, the hedge and among the yew trees at the back of the churchyard. There is already a good sense of joint purpose in the group, camaraderie, even joie de vivre! We have decided to call ourselves The Friends of Cressage Churchyard. As the group develops, we hope to undertake surveys of plants, mammals, reptiles, butterflies, lichens…. So it may be that many people around the village could find a role at some point. We know there are slow-worms and primroses in our churchyard and we wonder what else.

Wherever you are in the country and there is a churchyard that needs some helpful attention, you might find other likeminded people to share the caring with. You don’t have to be a churchgoer or religious to be involved, you just have to care about the churchyard and wildlife, and maybe enjoy human company….

You could have a look around the Caring for God’s Acre website and visit the Resources page: www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk/resources

Chris Riley of Cressage, Shropshire, with help from Mike Rayner