The environmental policies of St Mary’s Church
The large churchyard, which is still open for burials, occupies an elevated position on top of the North Downs with extensive views over the Weald. It attracts many visitors who come for a wide variety of reasons, not least its natural and beautiful setting.
The churchyard management plan is designed to ensure that reasonable access to graves, particularly the more recent ones, is maintained whilst natural plants and habitats are encouraged to provide a varied environment and food chain for wildlife.
A survey in 2007 listed 126 different plants. There are several large beech trees that have required appropriate surgery in recent years in order to promote their health and the safety of churchyard users. Yew trees also add to the character of the area and are occasionally trimmed when they encroach on tended graves.
The immediate surrounds of the Norman church, dated c.1075, are kept closely mown and grave spaces are trimmed in order to provide a suitable setting for this attractive flint building. Most recent graves are in the lower areas of the churchyard and good access is maintained here by regular mowing and strimming of the path system. Some areas of the central part are allowed to grow for their grasses and wildflowers, only being cut later in the summer. One such area has been left over the winter to provide resources such as food for birds but unfortunately this has now become infested with brambles and has therefore been strimmed earlier in this year. The north eastern perimeter is kept largely untouched and dead wood is left for insect habitat.
There are a few visitors who say they would like to see the entire churchyard kept permanently closely cut and the church makes strenuous efforts, including notices and parish magazine articles, to explain the environmental merits of the management policy. A main refuse area and some smaller ones for grass cuttings are kept neatly and are providing some useful compost and mulching material for local residents. With the exception of major tree surgery, all the maintenance is provided by volunteers. Six are particularly active during the week in their spare time: others support the monthly Saturday morning tidy-ups. The floral displays include hanging baskets and the planting of flowers flanking the narthex entrance to the church and the Church Hall. A composting area has also been created.