Diocese of Portsmouth

    The team who keep Rowner’s churchyard looking beautiful

    22 Aug. 2023

    THESE intrepid gardeners are part of the team who keep the churchyard and church grounds looking beautiful at St Mary the Virgin, Rowner.

    They are part of ‘Eden’, a group of churchgoers and others who mow grass, pull out weeds, keep graves tidy, creosote fences and do other maintenance work to keep the area around the church neat and tidy.

    They group was formed to help take care of the grounds after the Covid pandemic had made it difficult for anyone to maintain or landscape parks, cemeteries and churchyards. There were five people involved when it started in June 2022, and there are now 10 men and women.

    It’s led by Andy Williams, a congregation member who used to work in mental health and understands the benefits to our wellbeing of gardening, fellowship and being in the open air. He has a specific interest in keeping the grounds looking beautiful this summer, as his son is getting married and holding his reception at St Mary’s, meaning the church grounds are the backdrop for the wedding photos.

    “I was part of the congregation in the 1980s, and have recently come back,” he said. “I could see there was work that needed to be done on the grounds that had been difficult to do during the pandemic. When we started, one of our number was in the latter stages of a terminal disease and would turn up when able with a large machete to tackle brambles – he died in February, but it was good he felt able to contribute in his final months.

    “We see people visiting relatives’ graves and never miss an opportunity to approach them as potential recruits. Otherwise we chat, offer tea, coffee and biscuits, and are respectful of the grief they are carrying with them. And the 10 of us in the team are like a little fellowship group. We work, but also drink a lot of tea and coffee, eat biscuits and offer support to one another in our conversations. As we are at church, we will occasionally go into the church and pray and light a candle for a loved one ourselves too.”

    Monika Hinostrosa works on keeping the paving slabs outside the church free of weeds
    Monika Hinostrosa works on keeping the paving slabs outside the church free of weeds
    Keeping the graves themselves tidy is important
    Keeping the graves themselves tidy is important

    Sandy Dallman moved to the area with her husband after lockdown and met the gardening team there. She was happy to help out with anything that needed doing.

    “I asked about helping out with the gardening and joined the team,” she said. “I love gardening, and I want the place to look nice. My parents are in a beautiful graveyard in Wales, and I feel everyone should have the chance to rest in peace in a lovely place. There’s lots to do, but I enjoy it.”

    And Monika Hinostrosa, originally from Poland, joined the congregation at St Mary’s in the past 12 months with her two children. She said: “I saw that this was being advertised in the church service, and I enjoy gardening so wanted to join in. I like doing it, and I’ve been working on a specific plot outside the church entrance, and sorting out the weeds in the paving slabs.

    “We enjoyed working with each other – it’s like a family. I like being part of the congregation here, because they are really friendly and treat me like one of the family.”

    Another team member was recruited on Mothering Sunday this year, as she was visiting the grave of her mother. She was offered a cup of tea, got chatting and realised this was something she would enjoy helping with.

    St Mary‘s, Rowner

    174 Rowner Lane, Rowner, PO13 9SU

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