Thanks to Berkhamsted Citizens for providing this update.
2019 has been a busy year for the volunteers who are maintaining and restoring Berkhamsted’s historic Rectory Lane Cemetery under the experience and guidance of Project Manager, Dr. James Moir and Community Engagement Officer, Kate Campbell. The year started with the removal of some trees, mainly self-seeded sycamores and some others which were in poor condition. All works were planned in conjunction with local tree surgeon, Patrick Stileman, the Trees Officer at Dacorum Borough Council and with permission from the Diocese of St. Albans. Views across the town and the valley from the cemetery have been opened up as a result.
In May, local landscaping contractor Will Jackson, and his team, started work on creating the landscape elements designed by landscape architect Ed Snell. During the summer, the earthworks for the Garden of Remembrance were carried out. Following on, a beautiful stone floor has been laid, and the wood and steel wire structure of the Memorial Wall has been erected. Soon, specially designed seats and the new War Memorial will be put in place, and the planting of hedges and trees will soften and enclose the space. Dedication of the Garden of Remembrance is being planned to tie-in with the 75th anniversary of VE Day next May.
Other works carried out by Will and the team during the year have been the installation of power cables and water lines around the site, the construction of retaining walls and steps within the Sexton’s Hut enclosure, and of steps up to the wildlife area at the top of the cemetery. Groundworks for the all-weather access paths around the cemetery are currently under way. Still to come in 2020 are the finishing of the all-weather paths and the Rectory Lane and Three Close Lane entrances, more seating, Blue badge parking spaces, handrails for the top steps, Sexton’s Hut refurbishment, refurbishment of the Three Close Lane gates and a canopy for the performance area. The Cemetery really will have been transformed by this time next year!
Meanwhile, local stonemason Will Yendell continues to restore memorials and a dedicated band of volunteers has been building the volunteer facility at the top of the cemetery – it will be a welcoming hut for people working in the cemetery in all weathers in years to come! The activity programme has been as productive as the landscaping one, starting in May with the inaugural BerkoFest Book Festival, which was a brilliant, family-friendly event blessed with lovely weather. 350 visitors were welcomed to the cemetery to enjoy a programme featuring children’s authors – both local and national. A story-writing competition attracted entrants from local schools and the event confirmed that the Cemetery really is a magical place for storytelling and reading.
Tribute should be paid to the help given to the project by local Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and school groups who have lugged logs and cleared graves. A varied programme of events for the national Heritage Open Days, for the Chiltern Heritage Festival and Chiltern Walking Festival as well as a ‘Bonkers about Bees’ events featuring honey from RLCs very own bees have helped round-off a successful year for the Rectory Lane Cemetery Project. Help is still needed to fund a new ‘Read in Peace’ bench. Details of how you can help with the project can be obtained from Kate Campbell.