One Saturday morning a year or two ago, some of us were cutting back bushes and ivy just inside the Churchyard wall on Church Street when children passing by on their way from football on the Rec, joked about the Churchyard being a spooky place.  I couldn’t resist it, I rose up from behind the wall, making a ghostly noise.  There was much shrieking and laughter from the children, and parents who were with them enjoyed the joke.  In truth, the Churchyard is far from spooky.  I might have thought so as a child but I have such a different view now, having worked in ours for several years.  First and foremost, it is consecrated ground where burials have taken place over hundreds of years, as shown by the many different styles of monument.  Whatever we do there, that is our first consideration. 

During these coronavirus months when it has largely been left to itself, it has been lovely watching the different wild flowers and grasses blooming, as one variety gave way to another with the passing weeks.   Spring snowdrops, celandine and daffodils gave way to drifts of blue alkanet and speedwell and then came orange poppies, purple wild clary, the small pink bindweed, yellow ladies bedstraw, white campion and many different flowering grasses and sedges.

Those of us who have worked there – in socially distanced twos and threes – have seen lots of little dark brown butterflies, heard nesting birds and crickets and watched squirrels chasing each other through the trees.  A child came searching for snails but as it was dry and warm in the Spring, they had withdrawn into the coolest, dampest, spots they could find.

St Andrew’s Churchyard is a ‘closed churchyard’ – that is no further burials take place there except of ashes.  So our City Council has the responsibility for maintaining it.  It is limited by funds, time and manpower and so there is a Churchyard Group of people who enjoy doing as much as they can to keep the ivy under control, reveal graves lost in undergrowth, make sure the War Memorial and War Graves are well looked after, keep sycamore saplings under control etc.  If you would be interested in joining us, please contact for more details.

The charity, Cambridge Hedgehogs, approached us to join with St Andrew’s, Cherry Hinton, in creating good habitat for hedgehogs which are fast becoming an endangered species.  Some of our plans have been put off till next year but we have managed to create wood piles around the edges of the churchyard and have put down some drinking bowls.

For the last two years, we have been able to work closely with the City Council’s mowing team, their Bio-diversity Officer and their Tree Officer, to establish a management plan for the Churchyard and we thank Dr Jonathan Shanklin for his plan that forms a basis for us to work from.  It is a question of what is possible for everyone and it is evolving.

Over the weekend of September 12th – 13th, we are planning a Celebration of our Churchyard. Plans will have to be firmed up nearer the time according to the coronavirus situation but we are hoping to have a working party in the Churchyard on the Saturday morning.

And don’t get me started on the history that is revealed on the monuments: a little daughter of Olaudah Equiano, former slave who as a free man became important in the fight against slavery – evidence of the 1918-20 pandemic – stories of only sons lost in wars – of people born in other countries who made Cambridge their home – of  generations of local families – of ……

Maggie Fernie

First published in Chesterton News, September 2020