Volunteers help transform Berkhamsted's Rectory Lane Cemetery

Here's how the Adopt-a-Grave programme looks after 'forgotten' graves in Rectory Lane Cemetery

By Holly Patel
Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 12:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 12:12 pm

The team at Rectory Lane Cemetery and volunteers have helped transform the cemetery in Berkhamsted through the Adopt-a-Grave programme.

Rendering previously neglected graves beautiful again, particularly in the Garden of Remembrance area, is part of making it a vibrant green space.

Adopting a grave means looking after it – weeding and planting out as a miniature garden – and then maintaining it throughout the year.

Lea next to the grave she adopted of two little girls, photo on the right is after she spent some time working on it

Rectory Lane Cemetery would identify a grave for you to adopt, agree a planting scheme for local conditions and wildlife and reimburse planting expenses.

Now that the cemetery has been restored and beautifully landscaped more people are joining the Adopt-a-Grave scheme as a way of participating in this community project – the project is now concentrating on graves in the central Memorialisation area around the Garden of Remembrance, which has been planted by the Berkhamsted Gardeners’ Society.

There are a number of reasons why people have got involved, one volunteer is moving back to Berkhamsted, to a flat without a garden – for her it is an ideal way to rejoin the local community and meet people and tend an outdoor space.

One volunteer said: "I would love to show respect for someone that has passed and no longer has anyone to look after their resting place."

The completed grave of John Edward Lane, Victorian horticulturalist

Another added: "I've always loved graveyards and frequently visit Rectory Lane, it's such a beautiful place and it's so interesting reading all the old gravestones."

As part of the adoption volunteers research the lives of the people commemorated in the grave – using the usual online resources like Ancestry.com – or this can be done by the team's genealogy volunteers.

Kate Campbell, community engagement officer, said: "It has proven to be a really popular way to give something back to the community – so far 18 new volunteers have joined the project.

"We have many graves which are suitable for adoption - 'forgotten' graves without the care of living relatives; graves with curbs and earth which can be planted with pollinator-friendly flowering plants, bulbs and low-growing shrubs.

Some of the graves that have been adopted at Rectory Lane Cemetery

"It is an activity which can be done individually or in a group, we provide guidance and support and tools if necessary.

"We are delighted with the response to our appeal, which has seen a dozen graves taken on with other potential adoptees in the pipeline."

Amelia adopted the grave of John Edward Lane, she said: "As soon as the works were completed on the cemetery I knew I wanted to adopt a grave and when I walked past the Lane plot I just felt it was the one for me.

"First job was to top it up with soil. I then chose plants that would attract wildlife, be able to cope with our increasingly warm summers whilst doing justice to the Lane’s horticulture history.

Another grave planted up

"I am sure that I will be making adjustments as the plants grow and seasons change so whist I have enjoyed being part of this project I am happy in the knowledge that it is an ongoing one."

Volunteer Stevie said: "I love doing it because it includes all my hobbies – archaeology, genealogy and gardening – and I feel like I’m leaving a bit of a legacy."

Lea - pictured next to the grave of two little girls she is going to be transforming - said: "I am so pleased to have found this way to get my hands dirty again."

If you would like to get involved email: [email protected].

Stevie's chosen grave – another children’s one
The Adopt-a-Grave programme looks after 'forgotten' graves in Rectory Lane Cemetery