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St Ives cemetery could be left to grow into a 'living churchyard'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 08, 2012

  • Barnoon Cemetery, which may be turned into a 'living churchyard', above Porthmeor Beach, St Ives Picture: Colin Sanger

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The Barnoon Cemetery at the heart of St Ives is to be sown with wild flower seeds and then left to develop into a "living churchyard", under plans by the company responsible for its upkeep.

Barnoon Cemetery sits on the hill above Porthmeor Beach next to Tate St Ives and its green paths and rows of granite headstones are visible from the beach and The Island in St Ives.

Cornwall Council maintenance company Cormac, which cuts the grass at the cemetery, told St Ives Town Council the site had been designated as "low intervention".

The company said it wanted to establish Barnoon as a "living churchyard" by "sowing daisies and other wild flowers to parts of the cemetery" but it added it would ensure the area did not look like "an unkempt and neglected wilderness".

Jackie Mace, community partnership officer for Cormac's Environment Service West, wrote: "These havens form an important patchwork across our county for wildlife and local communities are encouraged to form a partnership with the council to have an input into the management of the churchyard for the benefit of wildlife as well as the local congregation, visitors and the bereaved."

The concept has won plaudits from environmentalists when it has been introduced elsewhere.

But even its biggest champions accept that it is also a way to dramatically cut maintenance costs. The Mayor of Penzance, Councillor Ron Tulley, said: "It's a cost-saving measure on their part. The truth is that some people like the idea of wild flowers in churchyards and think environmentally it is a great idea, and others want them to be mowed and trimmed and kept tidy.

"Some St Ives councillors have been positive about it. It is something Cormac have informed us about and we will discuss, although I think they will go ahead whatever we think."

The organisation that oversees living churchyards in Cornwall said it was unaware of the move.

Robert Moor, Cornwall Living Churchyards' voluntary project co-ordinator, said he was unaware of Cormac's intention to reduce maintenance at Barnoon and let it grow, but he welcomed it.

He said the living churchyard idea helped preserve protected plants and species while dramatically reducing spending on mowing and trimming.

Mr Moor added: "Cornwall Council is now beginning to realise that if they incorporate some of our ideas and reduce some of their cutting it's going to benefit the environment and costs."

St Uny churchyard at Lelant has already been turned into a living churchyard, partly because of an important protected bee species found there, although Mr Moor said it had become "overneglected" and needed a cut – an issue he was raising with Cornwall Council.

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  • LindaEllis  |  August 30 2014, 6:46PM

    We are just now (August, 2014) reading this news story about Barnoon Cemetery. My husband's grandparents, Alfred and Amelia (Peters Stevens) Ellis are buried at Barnoon Cemetery. We wanted to voice our opposition to Barnoon Cemetery becoming a so-called living churchyard where wildflowers and any co-mingled grass and weeds are allowed to continue to grow without any control. The last paragraph in this story regarding the cemetery in Lelant should be telling folks something about what can be expected to happen with the grounds and around the individual gravesite spaces; overgrowth that is no longer manageable. A cemetery is a place for the dead, but the living do often visit cemeteries and don't enjoy fighting their way through tall weeds, vines, plants, what have you to find their ancestors' granvestones. Doing what is suggested in this story, would be a big step backward, including the fact that the integrity and respect that should be attached to a cemetery and its gravesites would be reduced and in fact endangered. Thank you.