Berkhamsted’s Rectory Lane Cemetery wins Team of the Year award

Last month, the cemetery was awarded a Green Flag Community Award

Monday, 29th November 2021, 11:52 am

The volunteers behind the restoration of the Rectory Lane Cemetery in Berkhamsted are celebrating after being named Team of the Year at the Green Flag Awards 2021.

The award was announced at a virtual ceremony on Tuesday, November 23, recognising 25 years of the Green Flag programme, and the people who do so much to look after the UK’s green parks and spaces.

Last month, the cemetery was awarded a Green Flag Community Award, after a huge volunteer-led restoration project.

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Berkhamsted’s once-neglected cemetery wins Green Flag Community Award

Project Manager Dr James Moir said: “We are delighted to receive this award. Our team came together with a vision to rescue the long-neglected Rectory Lane Cemetery – a detached burial ground under the protection of St Peter’s Church.

"Our aim to broaden people’s perceptions of cemeteries as ‘dead spaces’ was always going to be a challenge.

"But through the energy, dedication and creativity of our volunteers and staff we managed to transform this unloved burial ground into a vibrant garden of commemoration that can be accessed and enjoyed by the whole community.”

Volunteers tend the grounds at Rectory Lane Cemetery

The project itself has involved some 500 active members of the community in its delivery, and a large volunteer cadre help with monthly working parties, adopting graves, gardening, and bee-keeping, as well as telling the cemetery’s stories through researching biographies and leading guided tours.

The restored grounds are also the result of perseverance against the odds – from disastrously wet weather during construction work in 2019 to Covid-19 causing delays to the team’s planned community events.

But the pandemic also gave the cemetery a renewed purpose: in the 2021 winter lockdown the cemetery became a natural sanctuary for many in the town, a place to walk and find peace of mind as well as the first signs of spring.

Kate Campbell, ranger and community engagement officer, said: “Our vision for the cemetery continues to expand.

The cemetery is proving to be a beautiful setting for live performances

“It provides a beautiful setting for live performance and activities focused on health and well-being.

"Today we are exploring the cemetery’s potential to be an outdoor classroom through a collaboration with a local primary school.

"And we have just launched the ‘Life in the Meadow Project’ to create a wildflower meadow in the grounds for vital nature conservation and study.”

You can watch the Green Flag 2021 virtual awards and the Rectory Lane Cemetery announcement on YouTube.

Berkhamsted’s Rectory Lane Cemetery wins Team of the Year award

Rectory Lane Cemetery, winner of a Green Flag Community Award 2021, is a free public space off the High Street, open to all, every day.