The churchyard of St Marks has grown since the church itself was built in 1859: expanding into Pennington common to the west of the building. As a private church yard, we aim to provide a calm, gentle place for both our visitors and the wildlife that live on our grounds alike – with areas allowed to grow more wild so as to provide a home and food to the smallest of Gods creation.
The visitor to St Marks would enter through the lych-gate, from Ramley Road. The lych-gate was an addition to the church in 1927 and was designed by the architect T. Bevir. Made of dark stained oak, the lych-gate was given by Rev Arthur C. Crick, vicar of Pennington, in 1927 – in memory of his wife, Fanny Agnes Crick.
If you are visiting the church in the spring, you will discover the grounds covered with primroses, daffodils and crocuses. As the spring moves towards May, English bluebells take their place and as the summer blooms, tall daisies make their home within the grounds.
As you walk through the lych-gate, you can leave the pavement that leads to the church entrance and turn left to walk with the building to your right. You’ll walk past a small border that runs parallel to the path that leads to the entrance of the church; here, seasonal flowers mark the entrance to the church in colour and texture. Beyond this, we have benches dedicated to the memories of those who held St Marks dear: take a seat here, and you can look at the south face of the church building. To the right, the buttressed entrance porch, with a single arched door, standing proud from the striped brick façade of the building. To the left, along the building is the smaller entrance to the vestry, housing within the manual mechanics for the organ – still in working order, should the electric not be available to power the bellows.
Behind where you sit, is the hedgerow; a typical country hedge, containing a mixture of privet, ivy, holly, laurel, hazel and more besides. As you walk along beside the hedge, the children’s graves can be found to your right. Occasionally to be found with windmills and similar trinkets, in fond memory of those who were parted from us before their time with us on Earth.
Beyond this, as you walk around the church to the right, facing the east window you can find our memorial garden, edged by low lavender bushes. Further from the building, we have our four vegetable plots, growing seasonal vegetables for our congregation to purchase.
Dotted around the church grounds, clinging to the sides of trees can be found nest boxes for both birds and bats and it isn’t uncommon to hear the distinctive call of the Green Woodpecker within the church yard. Recently, we had a pair with two youngsters for most of the summer: there is certainly sufficient food for them with the numerous ant mounds, especially towards the village end of the churchyard. The mounds seem to increase in height over the cold winters – with a few cylindrically shaped up to 18 inches high. Churchyards have become a refuge for this harmless Yellow Meadow Ant, because it lives in permanent pastures which have become a rare habitat. The ant builds mounds of earth full of passages and galleries in which they rear their brood feeding them on a variety of insects. The nests can be up to 100 years old with most below ground. It is in August when the winged young males and females leave the nest that they are more noticeable.
Following your path around the church and towards the back of the building, a hot day may well give you the opportunity to see lizards basking in the summer sun, against the warm stone and brick of the church. Behind you is a gate that leads on to Wainsford Road, the area being a warm and brightly lit when it catches the afternoon sun.
There is a narrow path that meanders under pine trees, feeding between graves towards the more open area of the churchyard where newer graves tend to be. This is land that St Marks expanded into from the common, shortly after the first world war – and leads you on to a straight gravel track. This extension means that Pennington is quite unusual in still having space for burials in its village churchyard.
To your left is an exit onto Wainsford Road: follow the path right however takes you along the back of the churchyard to an exit into Ramley Road.
Running along the common to your left, the old memorial area can be found; blended in with gravestones in the corner by Wainsford Road: this has now moved below the east window of the church and you would have passed this earlier on your walk.
Moving on along the track towards Ramley Road, you will find the war memorial; erected after the first world war, in memory of the honoured dead whose lives were lost defending the freedoms we take for granted today.
As you reach the end of the track and the exit onto Ramley Road, a cherry tree shades a path which follows the road, against the hedges and passes crab-apple trees. Here you walk into the older part of the churchyard, under tall yew trees that cause the sunlight to dapple the ground as the canopy above catches most of the warm rays. As you approach the lych-gate, you will spot an area to secure your bike – as well as a bench that faces the morning sun. A good place to rest your self after a morning cycle and be at peace with the world around you.