Saturday, June 07, 2008

Brightening the way

click photo to enlarge
The English village churchyard has always been a place of utility. All began life as a graveyard, a place where parishioners were laid to rest, originally in unmarked graves. However, from the seventeenth century onwards tombstones of varying degrees of expense and ornament became much more widely used. As the population outgrew the space available for burial new graveyards were made, often at some distance from the church. Today it is relatively unusual to find burials still being made in the original churchyard. Churchyards were also places where the English longbowman, that scourge of the French knights at Crecy and Agincourt, practiced their art. Yew trees growing amongst the tombs sometimes provided the wood for their weapon. Local politics and education was often carried out in the churchyard and its surrounds, and boards and doors bore official notices and declarations.

In the past forty or so years churchyards have seen many changes. "Dangerous" monuments have been taken down. In some places the oldest and most ornate tombstones have been lined up around perimeter walls leaving an expanse of green that is easy to mow and keep "tidy". More enlightened parishes realised the environmental value of the churchyard, and left some wild areas, put up bird and bat nest boxes, and encouraged wild plants, increasing the biodiversity. And many have created attractive garden areas, with colour through all the seasons, a joy to the eye, and an attractive counterpoint to the ancient stonework of church and grave.

Today's photograph illustrates one of the latter examples, and shows the path to the south door at St Mary, Manton, in Rutland. Both sides of this lovely cobbled way are planted with a variety of flowering perennials that brighten your passage and seem to beckon you into this marvellous old building that dates from the twelfth to the fifteenth century.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20mm (40mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/20
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On