Monday, 27 May 2013

Listen to the churchyard

There are waves of spring flowers in Great Coates churchyard until each year we let it overgrow to let the seed set. Now dandelion, cow parsley and long grass dominate. The annual complaints will come in until Community Pay Back cut it all back for us.

Listen to the trees. The oldest pines fell in high wind so we spent thousands making them safe and planting new ones. The youngest walnut has cut flowers at its base - they arrived a few hours after the name of a young women whose ashes were scattered there had come round in my prayer diary again. The oldest walnut has new life inside it - bats are roosting there.

Notice what the moat says. Churches do not have moats, but the mediaeval manor house next door did. The ruin was there in 1697 when a traveller mistook it for a dissolved monastery and wrote of its ‘turrits’ and ‘nitches’. A nineteenth century farmhouse was built on the land, and the graves nearest to it are those of the family who farmed there. Listen to the name Riggall – one of those which used to be unique to Lincolnshire (like Blades and Leggett) but now labels new lives across the world.

Catch an echo of local concern about the safety of the railway line. It is provoked by the gravestone of ten year old Willie Adams, son a railway signalman, killed at the level crossing in 1911, and others since. It continues following another tragedy there last month which reigniting prayers in church for those for whom easy talk of new life seems hollow.

Hear the silence of the unmarked graves. We have rediscovered the name of Betsy Moore, an unmarried serving girl. She bought a purgative at the Binbrook May Fair in 1871 to end her concealed pregnancy, but died of the overdose and was buried at night without being allowed a service. She lies near sailors washed up on the Humber bank over the centuries until ‘an unknown male person found dead in the River Humber aged about 40 years’ was buried in 1918. Our remembrance is a prayer for new life for the forgotten.

Let the stone outside the south door speak to you. It is where a long vanished memorial brass was fixed. The church owns two others, and had replicas made ten years ago. After Easter children were making rubbings of the five hundred year old picture on one of them showing Jesus stepping out of his tomb. All hope of new life leads back here.

The picture is of nettles in the churchyard last week harbouring what will become a butterfly; a visit from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust last week highlighted for us the value of the churchyard's nettle patches.   The article of mine appeared in the Cleethropes Chronicle last Thursday; some elements of it have appeared in this Blog before.

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