Keston church has struggled for quite a few years now to keep up with the maintenance of the churchyard. Our regular gardener for a good many years now has been Maurice Boniface. He has valiantly been doing as much as he can to keep up with the relentless growth of everything, which became extremely problematic throughout 2020 with the Covid pandemic.
Because of the restrictions and Maurice being concerned for his safety, there were long spells of very limited work being done. So through 2020 the growth all over the church has been prolific.
The growth had caused many problems, not least for visitors actually getting to graves. We also have three war graves in the church yard and for quite some time, only two have been visible. Also, when the growth becomes so thick and tall as it did, no amount of volunteers are able to cut and clear this safely, as the ground underfoot is extremely uneven all over the churchyard.
Fortunately we have been able to secure the services of a very experienced gardener who has a particular talent for looking after churchyards. Paul Rivett was appointed at the beginning of August to start clearing the churchyard with a view to then being able to identify the areas that we felt comfortable allowing to grow with wild flowers and those areas we need to keep trimmed and accessible. By implementing the clearance, this would also make the task of managing parts of the churchyard much easier for Maurice.
Paul first started with cutting back and tidying the area to the right side of the church that contains interred ashes with footstones. Many of the stones, marking interred ashes, had been completely covered over by grass and ivy growth. This was an area that was extremely difficult to keep tidy because of the unevenness of the stones and the grass. Several footstones were revealed that had completely disappeared underneath the excessive growth.
He then started the arduous task of clearing the gravestone area of the churchyard. This included lifting the tree canopies, removing endless sycamore saplings, at various stages of growth, some quite established and removing a sea of stinging nettles. Amazingly, the first stage of this process revealed six graves that had been completely consumed within the overgrowth.
Over the next few weeks Paul cleared more and more of the growth throughout the gravestones and eventually the third war grave was finally uncovered. This had been completely consumed by grass, nettles and brambles.
Now that the clearance is complete, we can concentrate on re-establishing pathways and identifying areas we will keep trimmed and accessible and those areas we would like to allow to flourish but in a controlled way.
Just as a footnote. Our gardener, Maurice, has decided to finally retire. He has been thinking about it for some time but didn’t want to leave us without anyone to attend the churchyard. Now that Paul’s on board, he feels it’s the ideal time to go.
We are sorry to see Maurice go but we thank him for all his hard work and dedication and wish him a restful retirement.