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Published on July 3rd, 2014 | by admin

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Thoughtful Thursday – Over Grown Graveyards Assets or Liabilities?

Some of you may have seen the report on BBC Midlands Today regarding a family’s anger about an over grown graveyard in Heath Hayes, Cannock. Relatives visiting graves of their loved ones at St John’s Church, in Heath Hayes, say the grass has not been cut for months.

The situation is replicated throughout the UK including locally. Just as in Cannock a lack of finances and muddied responsibilities between the church and local councils account for many of the problems, but I would suggest that some creative thinking could see these graveyards turned into an asset which can be used to address many of the problems seen within the community.

A few years ago the closed graveyard by St Mary & St Margaret was completely over grown with graves lost beneath brambles and nettles. But in 2009 a community project aimed at improving intergenerational relationships saw young and old working together to uncover the graves and create a space which allowed quiet contemplation and reflection. Since that date, over 500 people have volunteered in the graveyard and the project has helped to give works experience to the unemployed, improved mental and physical health, integrate refugees into the community and uncover the stories behind the headstones to instil pride in the community.

Young people and community groups have worked together on challenges to clear overgrowth and produce flower beds and corporate groups have assisted and used the experience as team building days. The biodiversity of the area has also increased as nectar rich plants have been planted. Strong working relationships have also been formed between residents and Council Officers and, whilst it is fair to say that occasional problems still exist with the grass being overly long, these are quickly addressed once the officers are made aware. The project has won an outstanding award from the RHS for community involvement and many of the volunteers have received John Muir Environmental Awards.

In these days of austerity, it is inevitable that Councils will be looking to cut their costs and any additional demands on their budgets will be hard to meet. However, I would suggest that creative thinking such as that used in the Castle Bromwich project allows residents’ concerns to be addressed whilst at the same time tackling the council’s priorities in a low cost and effective manner.

The Castle Bromwich project is run by Castle Bromwich Youth & Community Partnership who work closely with Solihull Council and St Mary & St Margaret Church.


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