I meet Paul Robards on an autumn afternoon under the arches of the entrance to Broadwater and Worthing Cemetery, which opened in 1863.
We pass the plaque dedicated to famous naturalist Richard Jefferies and nature writer William Henry Hudson, both of whom are buried in the cemetery.
Paul works as a Building Control Officer for Adur and Worthing, but he's been involved with initiatives to encourage wildlife in this cemetery since 2008, and was an original Friend of the Cemetery from the concept of the Friends Group (it now has 100 members). He has also been a supporter of Sussex Wildlife Trust for over 30 years.
We wander for a bit then sit on a smart oak bench paid for by the Friends, while we discuss the successes and improvements that Paul and the Friends have achieved here.
He explains that he was born in Bexhill and now lives in Lancing with wife Linda. "I've always been an outside person, and enjoy observing all nature, but particularly butterflies and birds." How did he come to be so involved with the cemetery? "I found it whilst visiting nearby St Mary's churchyard, researching the history of local churches. It touched my heart how rundown St Marys was and I wanted to help so I repaired and logged the graves then started coming here. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the size of the cemetery (14.5 acres) but I'd been inspired to think what might be possible after listening to a wildlife talk by Michael Blencowe in Malling churchyard."
Paul is now the nominated Wildlife and Clearance Coordinator of the Friends. He has written a book about the cemetery and is involved with running volunteer clearance days. The Friends Group undertake research about the history of the cemetery and organise tours throughout the year. He takes lots of photos of the wildlife and has encouraged others to share theirs by running a couple of recent photography challenges.
The cemetery has a good mixture of mature trees, shrubs and grassland. There are plenty of berries at present, as well as ivy in flower for nectar on the sunny north school boundary. "We've put up bat and bird boxes," he tells me. "I have two areas that I look after in a way that supports wildlife. We've had Sparrowhawks nesting here in recent years. There are foxes and hedgehogs as well as lots of different birds and butterflies. We've got Pyramidal Orchids too."
"What I'm most proud of is that we've negotiated with the council to sympathetically maintain the cemetery, with guidance and co-operation, working together to hopefully achieve the best times to cut the grass etc for the cycle of butterflies. We're on the same side now, which is rewarding for all."
See here for more information about the Friends of Broadwater and Worthing Cemetery, including tours and activity days.