Saturday, 29 June 2013

Cutting back complaints

The annual big cut back of Great Coates churchyard took place this week (and we remain grateful to Community Pay Back for its support year after year), not soon enough to prevent the annual complaints about our brief deliberate over growing, and a little too soon to save the last of the meadow flowering from which these pictures come a few days earlier (19th June).  Here is a version of an e-mail I sent about the same time as I took the photographs.

I'm sorry you are so upset with the way we manage the churchyard, and I am particularly sorry that you have such unhappy memories of the way we handled the setting for a wedding you attended a while ago. I can only reassure you that we are trying to do something important and creative with our management of the churchyard, and that we now have volunteers who make sure the areas either side of the main path and around the north door are kept neat all the time including when there is a wedding.

We happened to have the Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts' "Living Churchyard" Project Officer visit us last month to assess what we are doing. She was able to highlight the way those who manage churchyards as we do preserves an invaluable habitat for plants and animals. She pointed out to us in particular the way the catapillars of the Red Admiral butterfly are making 'tents' in a nettle patch and the way less common plants such as pink violets flourish, things which are increasingly rare in sprayed hedgerows and intensively farmed fields across the countryside.

The truth is that the churchyard looks fabulous and much admired from the moment the first snowdrops peep through until about the middle of May It is true that we do then deliberately let the churchyard over-grow until this time of year (every year it looks at its worst about now as inevitably tall weed takes over) to allow these plants to set seed properly; if we did not do this we would simply lose the spectacular spring display which is one of the real features and pride of Great Coates.

Over a couple of weekends Community Pay Back then come in and cut it all back for us (although we have no control over exactly when they are available to do this). It is then kept neat by our own volunteers for the rest of the year. I well remember the year that a fire destroyed Community Pay Back's sheds and equipment shortly before it was due to come to us, and the way we were suddenly faced with the almost unmanagable task of doing the annual big cut with no suitable equipment of our own and only a few volunteers - which inevitably then took place much later than it should have done. If you were one of those caught by this, then I can only apologise again for something which was totally outside our control at the time.

We are just developing a small National Lottery bid to help us do things like work on trees (in addition to thousands of pounds worth of essential tree work which we have had to do over the last couple of years) which will include opening up the view of the east end of the church (something the Village Council asked us to consider some time ago) and putting up bird boxes. In this process, we also want to develop small discreet wooden signs and also print a guide to the churchyard so that visitors can really appreciate what is being achieved here and get the most out of visiting.

We are working really hard at things like this. The church itself is one of very few which is normally left open during the day, and we are also just developing material about those commemorated on Great Coates' War Memorials, and about the War Graves in the churchyard in particular. At 7.30 p.m. on 3rd July, we will have Sixth Form students running an evening in church about First World War Poetry which will include a tour of those War Graves.  We hope to do more things like this.

I'm sorry you are so upset by the seven weeks (on average) in the year when the churchyard overgrows, and I understand that you would personally prefer a totally different approach to its management, but I hope I have typed enough for it to be clear that the churchyard is neither unloved nor uncared for. 


stan said...

Very well explained Peter.

Karen Bryan said...

Personally I admire your approach and I'm seeing the same from the council in some areas now. It's wonderful to see an oasis of natural habitat for wildlife, long may this approach continue.