Help us make the churchyard safe again

Rubbish by the war memorial
Rubbish by the war memorial

Every day, volunteers and visitors to St Mark’s Churchyard, Pennington are faced with litter strewn across the churchyard, including bottles and cans, plastic and wrappers, and drug paraphernalia.

Churchyards exist for the benefit of all. They are beautiful and sacred places which are clearly important to the local community and to those who have loved ones buried here. This space is intended to be a quiet and peaceful space, where visitors can spend time paying their respect to their loved ones, and spending time in prayer. This has been threatened in recent times, from the fire on Pennington Common, by antisocial behaviour in the churchyard, and from unsafe additions to graves in the churchyard.

Revd Rachel Noël says “There are a small number of people that are destroying this for the whole community. We have received many reports from individuals who feel scared to enter the churchyard to visit their relative’s graves, because of the antisocial behaviour of a small minority. Loud music, taking drugs and motorbikes are not appropriate in the churchyard, and are making it increasingly difficult for some to come into this space and grieve.

There are many that assume the Council look after the churchyard. Local councils only care for churchyards that no longer have space for burials. We are fortunate that St Mark’s Churchyard still has space for local residents to be buried here, which is a good thing for all in our community.

This means that St Mark’s Church PCC (church council) has responsibility for our churchyard, which is covered by the Diocese of Winchester, Chancellor’s Regulations.  The cost of maintaining our churchyards to the same standard as municipal cemeteries is prohibitive from voluntary donations and so we do the best we can, which is to undertake regular maintenance to keep it as safe as we can and to ensure the main pathways are clear. This work is done by our increasingly older volunteers and locals that support our efforts.

Some visitors to the churchyard have started placing additional items around their relatives’ graves, including fencing and edgings. These items are not permitted by the regulations, and are now making it increasingly difficult for other visitors, with complaints received from those with mobility challenges who are no longer able to get near their relatives’ graves. Other visitors have been adding chippings, stones, astroturf and other coverings to graves that are also not permitted. These items make it even harder for the volunteer team to care for the churchyard, increasing danger when strimming. Graves should be covered with natural grass. St Mark’s Church is writing to the relatives caring for graves that are in particular breach of the regulations.

Revd Rachel Noël, Priest in Charge of St Mark’s Church Pennington asks “we need the help of the whole community to care for this churchyard and to make it a safe space for all. We are asking for your help. If you witness antisocial behaviour taking place in the churchyard, including drug taking and loud noise, please report this immediately to the police on 101 or online If you want to help us to care for the environment in the churchyard, please join our volunteers on the first Thursday of the month from 10am. If we work together, the churchyard can again become a safe haven of peace and tranquillity for the whole community.

Lymington & Pennington Town Councillor Andrew Gossage says “The churchyard is a sacred place in our community where generations of Pennington deserve to rest in peace. Those who come to visit graves of relations and friends must be able to do so without aggravation, interference or intimidation. It is no place to play loud music or smoke drugs at any time of day or night.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.