In a single week, the Rectory Lane Cemetery in Berkhamsted has received three awards, recognising its inspired approach to community involvement, heritage, and teamwork.
On Tuesday, November 23, the project’s volunteers were named joint Team of the Year at the Green Flag 25th Anniversary Awards– a special online ceremony to acknowledge the volunteers and employees who care for the UK’s green parks and spaces.
By Thursday, November 25, the cemetery team were celebrating again. This time it was for receiving two awards from The Landscape Institute, the chartered body for the landscape profession.
The cemetery team won in the categories – Excellence in Culture and Heritage and Excellence in Community Engagement. The awards were presented at a virtual event honouring both UK and international projects at the forefront of landscape design.
“We began as a small group of volunteers faced with the task of rescuing what was an unloved, and long-neglected burial ground,” explains Dr James Moir, Project Manager of the Rectory Lane Cemetery Project. “To receive this trio of prestigious awards and to be ranked amongst the best examples of contemporary landscape design shows how far we have come from those beginnings.”
The Rectory Lane Cemetery is a detached burial ground under the protection of St Peter’s Church, Berkhamsted. Through a huge volunteer-led restoration effort it has been transformed from a ‘dead space’ of the town into a garden of commemoration, wildlife haven and outdoor venue for arts and events.
“We would not be at this point without the love and time people have poured into this project,” adds Kate Campbell, Community Engagement Officer and Ranger.
“This achievement is all down to our dedicated team – particularly our landscape architect Edd Snell of Above Zero, alongside Will Jackson and his small team, all local to Berkhamsted, who carried out the landscaping works with such dedication and skill, and the many specialists who repaired memorials, re-built collapsed walls, righted the toppling gate piers and Memorial Arch as part of the conservation works.
“Furthermore, none of this would be possible without the wider community who have supported and shaped our vision for what the cemetery could be. More and more individuals are breathing life to this landscape: our grave gardeners, habitat builders, school children, artists, performers, and tour guides continue to help us see the fascinating history and natural beauties of this place. We thank each and every one of them.”
At the Landscape Institute, the judges “were unified in their deep appreciation of the project…The sense of empowering people and enabling agency was palpable and clearly this site is intended as a place where everyone feels a sense of belonging and a connection.”