''The Beautiful Burial Ground' conference, organised by the charity Caring for God’s Acre (CfGA), which took place on Saturday 28th September, at the Thame Barns Centre was a great success with over 70 people attending the one-day event.
An array of organisations was represented, with speakers giving talks and running workshops throughout the day. The Chairman of the conference was Glyn Evans,
the diocesan rural officer in the Oxford Diocese and a Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire. Natalie Merry, the Secretary to the Oxford Diocesan Advisory Committee who is responsible for giving technical advice and guidance on church and churchyard projects gave a talk on caring for built heritage. Dr Harold Mytum of Liverpool University gave a talk on surveying and recording monuments and memorials. Other speakers included Fiona Danks from the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment, Chris Mason from the Cherwell Swifts Conservation Project and Russell Ball, President of the International Society of Arboriculture for the UK.
People who attended appreciated everything that the conference offered, as shown by comments made at the end of the day. “Really Excellent – one of the best one-day workshops I have ever attended.”, “A great and inspiring day”.
A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Patsy Wood Trust supported Caring for God's Acre (CfGA) to run the conference, which is part of a four year programme of work through a National Project, across England and Wales.
Caring for God's Acre champions the conservation of burial sites of all kinds, seeking grants to develop special projects which help deliver its work. It is a membership charity, which individuals and community groups are welcome to join. There is a helpful website at www.caringforgodscare.org.uk providing useful information on conservation management and the charity's activities. Caring for God’s Acre also runs a telephone and email helpline to provide advice and information on aspects of burial site conservation and interpretation.
There are over 12,000 burial grounds across England and Wales and it is well documented that they are a rich source of wildlife, often functioning as a sanctuary for flora and fauna which are rare and endangered elsewhere in the U.K. From song thrushes and swifts to hedgehogs, newts and slow worms, the biodiversity of these areas also encompasses species of international importance, for instance, Yew trees and bumblebees. They are also important for their historic man-made structures such as monuments and memorials, boundary walls, lychgates, preaching crosses and mausalea. This varied interest makes them ideal places for learning and for community activity such as practical conservation work and recording of the stonework and wildlife habitats. Caring for God’s Acre produces a special Churchyard and Burial Ground Action pack full of useful information on a wide range of topics to help people with their local sites. The pack can be downloaded from the website free of charge or purchased as a pack from Caring for God’s Acre.
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported over 30,000 projects, allocating £4.7 billion across the UK. Website: www.hlf.org.uk
Editors' note - For further information contact Sue Cooper, Caring for God's Acre, 11 Drover's House, Craven Arms, Shropshire SY9 5DF. Tel: 01588 673041.