Maintaining St John sub Castro churchyard for wildlife

, 07 December 2023
Maintaining St John sub Castro churchyard for wildlife
St John sub Castro churchyard © Patrick Collinson

St John sub Castro sits on a hill at the northern edge of Lewes, overlooking the Pells Pond. The two-acre churchyard lies peacefully behind it, unknown to many in the town. The present Victorian church replaced a smaller medieval church and the gravestones range in date from seventeenth century box tombs to the end of the Second World War.

Since then, it has gone through various stages of neglect and maintenance. During 60 years the grass was sometimes cut to keep it tidy but various huge bushes, brambles, and many tree saplings were allowed to establish, some of which have shattered tombstones. There is now a mix of dense woodland, scrub and open meadow.

St John sub Castro churchyard © Patrick Collinson
St John sub Castro churchyard © Patrick Collinson

For the last twelve years there has been a gradual transformation by removing brambles and many of the bushes and importing wild flowers and seeds. At the last count there were some 125 different varieties visible plus numerous trees and grasses, and insect and bird life has increased steadily. There are also several beehives.

The whole area is much appreciated by those who know about it. Some simply walk through, some sit and read or chat, with or without coffee, some come to enjoy the lack of noise and distractions or to watch foxes, birds and butterflies. This tranquillity is the very essence of the place.

Most of the work has been done by one volunteer, Patrick Collison, with occasional workdays by some other volunteer groups. In the last two years age and illness has taken a toll and he is now looking for a wider group to take on some of the regular work and to help form a plan for the future. 

If you can help, please contact Patrick Collinson via [email protected]

UPDATE: JANUARY 2024 Huge thanks to everyone who responded to this blog - Patrick is absolutely delighted that a project he’s invested so much into now has a bright future

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Comments

  • Sally Nicholl:

    Dear Patrick, I am usually only in Lewes in the winter months until May or so but I would be very happy to give what help I can. I also volunteer as a Downs Ranger.

    03 Jan 2024 17:15:00

  • Sally Nicholl:

    Dear Patrick, I am usually only in Lewes in the winter months until May or so but I would be very happy to give what help I can. I also volunteer as a Downs Ranger.

    03 Jan 2024 21:25:00

  • Brigid Jensen:

    would love to give a hand when needed. Not in my first flush of youth but able to do most things apart from heavy lifting !

    14 Jan 2024 13:17:00

  • Anna Kent:

    I live nearby and am happy to come to a group session if you advise me of day and time.

    27 Feb 2024 10:49:00

  • Sussex Wildlife Trust:

    Hi Anna. That's very kind of you. I think we had a great response to this when we posted it and they are ok for the moment.