Volunteers help transform Berkhamsted's Rectory Lane Cemetery
Here's how the Adopt-a-Grave programme looks after 'forgotten' graves in Rectory Lane Cemetery
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.
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."
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.
"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.
"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].