Welcome to the Parish Church of All Saints, Leighton Buzzard

All Saints in the Spring

Our Churchyard

Taking a walk in the forest reduces negative thought patterns [1]

Our Natural Churchyard

The churchyard surrounding All Saints in Leighton Buzzard is a jewel case to a jewel: our church.

It is an oasis of natural calm and only when children dance, fetes come alive, and pet services are conducted, is the serenity disturbed for a short while.  Even bell ringing compliments the peace.

Measuring 0.83 hectares, including the church footprint (one and a half football pitches) the space is just right for the task we ask.

The Churchyard Boundaries have looked much the same for the last 200 years. [2]

Initially, the western boundary stood about 20 metres away from the west porch. Extensions were made to provide further space for burials. Land was purchased after agreement at long 19th century vestry meetings convened in the Golden Bell public house. The boundary walls replaced fences and were built during the mid-19th century and in some places are in a poor state of repair.

A large prebendal house was built probably before 1550 [3], but was demolished during the mid-19th century. It stood near the churchyard, part-way along Judges Lane. The reference shows pictures of the Church and surrounding area in earlier times.

Few trees existed in the Churchyard until Victorian times. The distinguished outline of the Church could be viewed from all approaches to the town. Now about 70 capital trees (38 deciduous and 32 evergreen) surround All Saints Church, enhancing the peaceful space but concealing the view. Plans are in hand to label the trees for easy identification, supported by a publication.

The meadow grass. This together with its associated flowers and weed areas support wild life providing sources of food and refuge from predatory birds and mammals.

Wildlife.  Bees from hives in the south west corner of the churchyard collect the local pollen. Badgers have lived for years at the west end of the churchyard. There are five or more sets, many of which seem to be linked. The grass surface is covered with badger and other snout holes resulting from foraging for food. Badgers repeatedly undermined the walls of the Churchyard to access the adjoining fields. Frequent restoration of the foundations was necessary. Some years ago a purpose designed animal access hole was built into the south boundary wall. The undermining of walls has not occurred since.

Small deer have been seen frequently in the churchyard but are not permanent residents. About 20 bird and bat boxes have been placed around the Churchyard and some are in use.

The graves and tomb stones tell a social story of Leighton Buzzard. Few graves date before 1825. One Wooden grave remains and has been preserved. Many tombstones have decayed and can be found buried below the surface of the grass.  The raised levels of the soil alongside the church’s main path, indicates the volume of interred remains that have accumulated through the centuries. History indicates that the Churchyard has been a place for burial long before the present Church was built in the 13th century.

Lichens on the Church masonry and tomb stones [4] are depleted in many areas. A lichen survey has recently been prepared by Mark Powell showing All Saints has two rare types of lichen and husbands 86 species altogether.

Many masonry parts of the church have been replaced or cleaned during the recent preservation work. The survey explains that many lichens do not prosper well in shade, and the number of trees in the Churchyard could be reduced, admitting light.

The Management Style for the Churchyard follows guidelines set out. [5]

The grass is kept tidy by traditional mowing, strimming and hand cutting. The approaches bordering the main entrance path and adjoining areas are regularly mowed and the grass clippings collected.  Areas of wild flowers are allowed to prosper.  During the summer period, the grass area to the east of the church is also mowed and the grass collected.  Other grass areas surrounding the church are left un-mowed with walk-ways cut through to allow easy access around the churchyard and to seating areas. The long grass is mowed after flowers have seeded and the mowings left uncollected.

More than 100 litres of fuel can be consumed through a year by the mowers; however, this is dependent on the weather through the seasons.

The Trees are maintained by a tree specialist who provides a free survey and a quotation for any management required every two years. Damage caused by high winds, unexpected high growth or decay are rectified by the specialist as required. He consults Natural England and the local authority before any substantial work is undertaken. 

During the summer, the areas below the conifers are cleared, any low-hanging branches trimmed or removed and the grass cut. Situations for residence and sleepovers are discouraged, and the area maintained for easy searching, although this can spoil the natural appearance in some instances.

Shrubs and Ivy are trimmed by hedge trimmers and by hand. During the summer, bramble branches, stinging nettles and ragged edges are cut to avoid annoyance to children and adults. After flowering and at the point of wilting, stinging nettles are progressively trimmed down to be reabsorbed in the soil.  Shrubs and bushes are trimmed to allow easy passage and surveillance of the area.  Some ivy is removed from trees and larger bushes. Larger accumulations of ivy are removed from walls and areas where its load and structure could cause damage.

Fallen Leaves are collected. Teams of workers use mechanical assistance, but mostly it is simply by broom and large collecting bag. Dumps of leaves accumulate at inconspicuous points around the perimeter of the churchyard. These dumps rot down and almost disappear. Cuttings, branches and waste material are burned on a bonfire about three times each year, timed to avoid nuisance.

References

  1. Briggs, H., Can you prescribe nature?  BBC News Science –Environment:
    www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-33368691
  2. 1819 Map of Church Square
  3. The Prebendal House Leighton Buzzard
  4. Mark Powell    An unpublished survey:
    LICHENS AT LEIGHTON BUZZARD (ALL SAINTS) CHURCHYARD
    (SP919.248, VC Bedfordshire)
    3rd June 2015
    markpowell@btinternet.com
  5. Thomas Cooke
    The Churchyards Handbook.
    ISBN-13: 9780715143018
    Published  17/05/2012