Life After Death But Perhaps Not In The Way We Usually Consider It?

I know many people do not care for them, but I like graveyards. In my teenage years many moons ago we lived next to one – an unassuming village sort with a few brooding yews and a small plain church presiding. It had one tunelessly doleful bell which was very trying to the nerves of us Ashfords come Sunday morning. My father, who was a godless soul as far as I know, took to mowing the grass around the nextdoor graves. This was after he had deeply offended the vicar by mowing our own lawn during evensong.

Pa was deaf and had switched off his hearing aid and so presumably had missed the Sunday evening bell tolling, although this is hard to believe. Anyway, around seven on a summer’s evening he was happily whizzing over the grass with a very noisy flymo only to be fruitlessly hallooed over the church wall by the vicar who had worked himself up into a whirlwind of white cassock.

I think it was me who spotted the poor man waving his arms, trying to catch Pa’s attention. It was a bit embarrassing. Ma tut-tutted. We all knew that Pa was a bit obsessive-compulsive when it came to grass-mowing. But all was smoothed over in the end.

Anyway, to get back to graveyards. Here I am posting some photo details of St. Bride’s churchyard memorials (See earlier post The Little Church By The Sea.) I’m including them for a very important reason. While we were away at St. Bride’s I happened to read an article by Harriet Carty in April’s The World of Interiors magazine. Harriet Carty is an environmental scientist who lives in Shropshire and she is also director of a non-religious charity called Caring For God’s Acre. My interest was thus piqued on several fronts. This is what the organisation says about itself and what it does:

There are about 20,000 burial grounds in the UK and they contain a fantastic wealth of biodiversity and history. They are refuges for wildlife and stepping stones of habitat within our increasingly nature deprived landscape.


Burial grounds are unrivalled for the wealth of built heritage and social history they contain. We encourage appropriate management of heritage and the appreciation and surveying of monuments. Good management of a site creates a haven for wildlife without losing accessibility to the built heritage.

In the article Harriet also mentions lichens in particular, saying how churchyards provide  sanctuaries for one third of the 2,000 species found in Britain – the stone walls and memorials being ‘ideal hosts for these slow-growing colonies.’




P1040673 square


I don’t know much about lichens, apart from their presence indicating unpolluted air,  but I would say there are a good few species on these stones. Of course lichens are not the only life forms to have found protecting spaces in graveyards. There may be slow worms, voles, nesting birds, toads, bees and butterflies. There’s also the social history too. So much may be gleaned about past communities from their memorials. Over the next four years Caring for God’s Acre will establish a national data base, listing all the natural and man-made treasures in the nation’s burial grounds. A fascinating project. But most of all I find it very heartening that new life thrives on and around the monuments to those humans who have left the living world. I like it that even on ground dedicated to the dead, the circle of life turns ever on.


Squaring the Circle #March22  Circles in squares and squares in squares are happening all month over at Becky’s

In which  #SixGoPottyInPembrokeWithCockapooPuppy – holiday snaps #4

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

54 thoughts on “Life After Death But Perhaps Not In The Way We Usually Consider It?

  1. Very interesting post on the importance of graveyards in the UK for wildlife and nature in general. Your story of your father added extra spice to the story. New for me was that the presence of lichen is an indication of clean air. Thank you, Tish!

  2. An interesting take on graveyards, Tish. I find them fascinating places for the social history, and they can yield some great images, too

    1. Yes, sometimes quite astonishing things to see. One that was truly amazing is the cemetery in Buffalo NY. The elaborate monuments the entrepreneurs built for themselves, and also in a most bucolic setting for a city.

      1. And I loved the wilderness of the old abandoned, Victorian part, of Nunhead cemetery. Also, the very moving Jewish cemetery in Warsaw

      2. Thanks, Tish. Nunhead was a good few years prior, and I had a basic point and shoot, on a dull day…so nothing from there

  3. The rest of the lichens on earth live on the thousands of stone fences in New England … and any left over, live somewhere on our house. Green. Our house is green. We used to have an almost completely lichen backyard … it was wonderful underfoot, I should add. Sadly, the septic system needed redoing, so it got dug up and has not regrown. It was much nicer than grass and much GREENER too.

    I like graveyards too, the older the better. I love the old inscriptions. A lot of people around here like the graveyards. Drawings and photographs of the stones. Very popular. And there are always wonderful old trees there, too.

      1. Pollen – a great disrupter of the respiratory system. What I don’t understand is sometimes I react with a vengeance, and other times I don’t. But then remembering the magnified images of pollen grains from my prehistory classes, some did look like armoured missiles.

  4. Fascinating, as usual, and lovely photos.
    As kids we used to ride our bikes and go conkering in a graveyard at a Church in the small village of Doddleston, not too far from where we lived in Chester.

    I seem to recall Pete has some info on lichen and has done a few posts too.

  5. I will have to re-evaluate my view of lichen on headstones now Tish. I’ve tended to be quite grumpy at how well they obscure the inscriptions, which are the main reason I visit graveyards. But I’m seriously impressed by Caring for God’s Acre, and anything which helps preserve bio-diversity. I guess I’ll just have to work a bit harder at making sense of the words underneath. 🙂

      1. I’ve had some success photographing them and then adjusting the contrast on the image, but some will forever remain a mystery to me.

  6. it is an interesting project and last week I took a photo of some lichens – just on a tree trunk and rushed it – (sigh – sometimes breaks are needed and cannot get all the photos we want) – so coming here to the last photo of all the wonderful lichen life and texture – quite the treat.
    and this was a beautiful ending note:

    “new life thrives on and around the monuments to those humans who have left the living world…”

  7. I like graveyards too – for a feeling of peace and being surrounded by history. I shall enjoy them even more now – thanks for highlighting a different angle Tish

    1. It’s a very pleasing angle, isn’t it. Obvious really, that graveyards can be sanctuaries in more ways than one. I shall visit them now with much greater attention.

  8. I had a chuckle picturing the vicar in his whirlwind of white cassock and your Pa happily and obsessively in his own silent world mowing the lawn. Another lovely peek into your childhood Tish. Interesting facts about lichen too accompanied by delightful square photos. As the first one scrolled up onto the screen it looked like a monster appearing.

  9. I love old graveyards and stones, but I really popped in to tell you that I’m reading the latest Elizabeth George book and Much Wenlock has already been mentioned twice. Ludlow has been mentioned as well. 🙂


  10. I like the story of your Pa. These photos work well in the square format – it draws attention to the detail.

  11. Oh what a fabulous squaring the circle, and what a lovely memory – your description is so wonderful it almost felt as though I was there 😀

    I like going round graveyards too and great to know they are a haven for lichen.

  12. Magnificent squares for Becky, and social and natural history too! A bumper crop, Tish 🙂 🙂 2,000 varieties! Who’d have thought? And I love the story of your Pa and the whirlwind vicar. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend! Hope it warms up so you can get in that garden.

    1. Many thanks, Jo. Can only put it down to the invigorating Pembrokeshire air. As to the garden – I need to go and turn compost heaps before the Easter sleet. Have a good weekend.

  13. Such wonderful textures in your images. I also love wandering around graveyards, especially in Europe. Rather than find them depressing, I see them as a place of loving memorial to the souls that once walked the Earth.

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