The volunteers behind the restoration of the Rectory Lane Cemetery in Berkhamsted are celebrating yet again after being named Team of the Year at the Green Flag Awards 2021 – having only just earned Green Flag status last month.
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.
The Cemetery team was a joint winner in a category with an extensive short-list of 11 entries from parks and green spaces from across the UK. They share the prize with Newry, Mourne and Down, Forest Parks.
“We are delighted to receive this award,” said Project Manager Dr James Moir.
“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.”
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, added: “Our vision for the cemetery continues to expand. 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: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6womyqeiMMk
The Rectory Lane Cemetery was awarded with a Green Flag Community Award in October 2021, the international mark of quality for green parks and spaces.