Maintaining St John sub Castro churchyard for wildlife
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.
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