In 2020, St Peter’s churchyard in Bournemouth town centre was so overgrown and unruly, with brambles and rhododendrons obscuring pathways and gravestones, creating a hotspot for anti-social behaviour.
However, fast forward two years and the St Peter’s churchyard has been completely ‘reimagined’, thanks to the determination of Jane Styslinger (Church Warden) and the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Urban Green project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and Southern Coop, along with funds from BCP Council, AFC Bournemouth and other donations, a group of churchparishioners, local people, the Community Payback Team, students from Bournemouth & Poole College, the BCP Gardens Team and loyal volunteers from Bournemouth Rotary. These volunteers were able to clear all of the invasive rhododendron and undergrowth (quite achallenge!), empty bottles, rubbish and used needles, and in their place, plant a butterfly and bee walk, 6,000 bulbs, which are going to make a huge impact in the Spring, and hundreds of new plants. With plenty of historical interest in the churchyard, notably the grave of Mary Shelley located in the graveyard and the Grade II listed Chapel of the Resurrection to commemorate local men who fought in WWI as well as the graves of many prominent locals who lived in the town, the key to the vision is to provide places to sit and reflect or have lunch, an outdoor learning space with wildlife and history trails, all of which are now in place, transforming this once neglected churchyard into a tranquil oasis for both people and wildlife to enjoy and has built friendships that will last a lifetime.
The outstanding success of the Urban Green project, as beautifully captured by storyteller Sam Crosby in the video link below, will be continued with the Nextdoor Nature programme. This new initiative will empower and support communities to improve their local greenspaces and has been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.