We are lucky enough to live in one of the most gloriously wooded towns in the country.
St Leonards, Hollington, Church in the Wood, has stood in the remains of an ancient coppice wood since 1090. A wood that is known to have been in use for timber and charcoal in Roman times. The oldest known grave in the churchyard is dated to the early 1500s and the register of burials goes back to the 1600s.
The many oak standards in the graveyard are reminders of the ancient royal decree coppice and standards of 13 standards per acre and they are all well over a 100 years old.
They show us the march of the seasons, from the bare branches of winter, through the fresh greens of spring to the glorious colours of autumn, as well as providing a habitat for an estimated over 300 other species.
Unfortunately autumn leaves fall. In some years, when you don’t have the procession of autumn storms, the fall happens over a long period. Such that if you clear the leaves one day, the next it is covered again.
Given the age of the churchyard the plant communities have developed to suit the conditions. An ongoing botany survey being carried out this year has already identified some rare and important plants.
As the graveyard is acting as a seedbank for this important asset, we are having to adapt our management plan to protect this important and varied habitat. Some of the more modern plants will fail to thrive in an environment that is better suited to the established plant communities, particularly under the heavy shade and increased tannin from the oak standards. Not forgetting the foxes, badgers, squirrels and other small rodents that live in and around the graveyard.
It should not be forgotten that it is still a working graveyard, one of the few left in the area. Its continual maintenance requires time, money and labour, all of which is in short supply these days. We do our best maintaining this asset within the constraints that are placed on us.
If you have some time and feel that you would like to help, for which we would be very grateful, please contact the church wardens at Church in the Wood.
Church in the Wood
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