Caring for the churchyard at St Mary the Virgin, West Malling.

We are fortunate to have a large and beautiful churchyard at St Mary’s. The church and churchyard together have a long history and hold precious memories for many people in West Malling.

In the north-west annexe of our churchyard, we have designated an area to promote the environment, supported by a national charity scheme called ‘Caring for God’s Acre’ (www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk).  We hope to be a part of this work over the next few years and take part in their project called ‘Beautiful Burial Grounds’ which aims to:

  • encourage wild flowers, wild life and biodiversity within the churchyard;
  • promote interest in the ancient monuments, the graves and the heritage of the churchyard;
  • encourage local people, and especially children, to become involved in caring for the churchyard;
  • set up events to promote understanding and appreciation of the churchyard.

Promoting wildlife and bio-diversity in the north-west annexe of the churchyard will involve changes in how we manage the grassland. Close mowing discourages bees and other insects, which in turn means that birds and mammals are scarce. By allowing the grass to grow longer in the area shown on the map below we hope to see more wild flowers and insects which will encourage, birds and bats and other wildlife.

The designated area will be sensitively managed and will not look neglected. Close mown paths will create a circular walk through the long grass and provide access to particular graves for families and visitors, including the Commonwealth War Graves in that part of the churchyard.

We plan to record the wild flowers in this area and also bird and bat sightings, as well as insects, and any other wild life we find. We hope to put up bird nesting boxes ready for next year. We have started a logpile and a compost heap to create habitats for creatures such as hedgehogs.

When the Covid restrictions allow, we hope to organise events in the future, like a talk from an expert from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

A project like this does take an enthusiastic volunteer team. If you would be interested in helping, please do contact us to let us know of your interest and we’ll put you in touch with the team leading the effort.

Furthermore, we are also looking for some volunteers who would like to help create a map of the graves in the Churchyard. The work will involve compiling information from our Burial Registers and electronic sources with photographs and details of headstones and plotting it all on the maps we already have ready for the task.

If you have any concerns about the project, or graves of family members in the nearby area and would like to talk about the plans, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be glad to try and help.