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Churchyards are, for the most part, a reflection of the place, time and congregation of a locality. In cities and many towns they are frequently small, containing the tombs of those who could afford to be buried there. Often they have been turned into gardens or small semi-public parks. In these larger settlement big Victorian cemeteries such as that at Highgate in London, or Hull's Western Cemetery, contain the graves and memorials of more ordinary folk.
However, in villages many churches continue to be surrounded by graveyards that are still used, though often they hold the cremated remains of the faithful, rather than the interrred body, a more efficient use of scarce space. Dwindling congregations find it hard tofund the regular upkeep of village churchyards. Consequently, many are "rationalised", the space between gravestones given over to mown turf. Others let the grass grow long over the summer, sometimes for wildlife conservation reasons, frequently for lack of a person or the funds to have it cut regularly. Then there are those that grow a little wild, the result of what looks like benign neglect. Such graveyards can look wonderful, both wildlife oasis and darkly mysterious surroundings to the church. Where this happens it is usually the planting of the Victorians - laurel, yew, laburnum, rhododendrons and similar plants - that take over.
During a recent visit to the church of St Leodegar at Wyberton in Lincolnshire, I surveyed the rather rambling churchyard. On my previous visits parts of it have had something of this "overgrown" character. But no longer. Out of shot, to the right, a thicket of very old laurels has been cut down, the wood of the trunks and piles of leafy branches neatly stacked, awaiting removal. Perhaps the next area to be tackled will be the ivy covered ground and trees on the left of my shot. It's a delicate decision to know how far to go with clearing: too much and it can end up looking sterile, not enough and it needs too much maintenance. On the day of my visit I took the opportunity to record the clumps of snowdrops, the ragged trees, and the equally ragged looking church (it had a central tower that collapsed in 1419 and was rebuilt with a west tower and no transepts using the fallen masonry). The short brick chancel, that looks very out of place, is a further addition of 1760.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen
Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.4mm (26mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f3.5
Shutter Speed: 1/500
Exposure Compensation: -1.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On