Bringing a cemetery to life

Flowers in bloom at St Mary's Church, Walthamstow Village (credit Tim Hewitt)

Flowers in bloom at St Mary’s Church, Walthamstow Village (credit Tim Hewitt)

Gardener Tim Hewitt is helping to brighten up a Walthamstow graveyard

Have you ever felt that you need a bit of help?

Faced with a very overgrown churchyard to maintain in 2016, I certainly did. When I first started to look after St Mary’s Church graveyards in Walthamstow Village, mowing the paths and clearing away brambles, nettles and weeds endlessly made me feel that I was not really getting anywhere. Lots of graves were overgrown and I had no hope of getting them back in order.

Then I had a brainwave. What if I could persuade lots of other people to come and look after a grave each? So I started Burials in Bloom 2018. With the huge help and encouragement of Helen Lerner and the Walthamstow Village Residents Association, it ran alongside the RHS Village in Bloom competition, with judging and prizes awarded for best-kept grave. Last year 19 graves were adopted and improved. It was a small step in the right direction, but there are hundreds more graves to go.

The idea is a simple one. Have a look in the main churchyard, find a grave you want to look after, register your interest and start looking after it. It can be any time you want, as much or as little as you are able to do. Like Tesco, every little helps.

So what is in it for you? Well, firstly you have an excuse to visit a lovely part of Walthamstow, the largest green space in The Village. I really love working there. You get a small and manageable plot of land to experiment on. You might be experienced or have never gardened before, but that doesn’t matter, you can try things out. You might have a name, a date or a person you can connect to through your choice of grave. Some of the participants last year did some amazing historical research into the graves they were tending. You might want to go as a family to work together on something or you might like the chance to get away from your family!

The benefits to mental health and wellbeing are proven. Some gentle exercise is always good for you. You might want to make your plot into a wildlife friendly area, as several participants did last year. You might be fiercely competitive and want to win one of the (very small) prizes.

Whatever your motivation, if you have any time from five minutes a month to two hours a day, I would love you to get involved with the new, improved Burials in Bloom 2019, and make a difference to your local community.

To get involved with Burials in Bloom 2019, contact Tim Hewitt: