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> Church Activities - Lawford Churchyards

There are two churchyards which are separated by a hedge and an ornamental iron gate. The old one, now not used for burials, is said to be on the site of a very much older village burial ground which pre-dated the building of the church by many years. Only a few of the headstones of the graves remain, the others having been broken and lost during a levelling exercise in the early 1960s. This churchyard contains the Village War Memorial and several Military graves A Nature Conservation Area has been established here and this is one of only fourteen such areas throughout the UK to be awarded the prestigious ‘Beacon Status’.

THE NATURE CONSERVATION PROJECT, 2003, OPERATED BY
FRIENDS OF ST JOHN'S CHURCHYARD

Much has happened since we took over the care of the old churchyard over nine years ago. It was then covered by long grass, brambles and rank weeds and the ancient hedges, estimated as being in excess of four hundred years old, were in a very poor state. In consultation with the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, we formulated a Management Plan and, over the years since, the result has been an increasingly lovely and impressive Nature Conservation Area which is a great joy to all who visit it. It was awarded First Prize in the Warwickshire Village ventures Competition in 1999.

Some areas of the grass are quite low-mown and others have longer growth. This is because it is mown to a strict programme so that parts of it have the characteristics of meadow-land at different times of the year- each with its distinctive wild flower population. Hundreds of wild flowers have been planted and the grass mowing programme allows each to achieve its seeding process.  To avoid the 'summer' growth looking too untidy in the main part of the area we have moved this particular section of the programme to the perimeters to combine it with the wilder growth where we have been encouraging the sort of plants and shrubs which should attract small mammals. In these perimeter areas we have planted shrubs which will provide seeds and berries which are attractive to various birds. Many indigenous trees and shrubs have been planted and will become increasingly impressive and environmentally useful as they mature.

A wild bird feeding station has been established and boxes for birds and bats have been installed. During the past two or three years, we have been delighted to note - in addition to the many, more common 'residents' - the presence of grass snakes, a little owl, tree creepers, greater spotted woodpeckers and several of the less usual butterflies and moths. These arrivals are a direct result of our planting of the special trees and flora which encourage their sources of food and their preferred habitats.

We have installed two very old kissing gates, which were redundant in other parts of the village, at each end of the public footpath which divides the old churchyard from the present one. The very old hedges along this public footpath have been rejuvenated - one, by laying and, the other, by coppicing. Bench seats, some made by a local resident, have been installed as family memorials.

We have not forgotten that this is first and foremost a church yard. (In fact, the area was a local burial ground long before the Church was built by it). The gravestones which remained after a levelling operation which was carried out many years ago, have been cleaned, restored and levelled.

The War Graves and the War Memorial receive special care.

We also care for the present Churchyard.
The lawned areas are mown regularly and the pathways are maintained and edged. Graves which have been forgotten by the families concerned are tended or grassed over. The hedges (and there are more than 300 yards of these around both of the churchyards) are cut regularly and flowering plants are planted along the hedged edges. The grass verges outside the Churchyard are kept clean and mown. The large Iych-gate is treated with preservative, and the three other gates are painted each year. In this churchyard, too, bench seats have been provided by local families as memorials.

Our care of the Churchyards was recognised in 2002 by being placed First in the Best-kept Churchyard Competition for the Rugby Area. In 2003 it was again placed first in the Rugby Area, and second in the whole of the County.

The Church has to bear no part of the considerable expense involved in the care of the two churchyards. The entire cost is covered by local fund-raising, donations and grants.