(This text is derived from the leaflet produced for the open afternoon on Sunday 1 May 2016, appropriately Rogation Sunday, the day when the Church has traditionally offered prayer for God’s blessings on the fruits of the earth and the labours of those who produce our food).
St John’s Church, built in 1871 and part of the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales, stands in beautiful grounds maintained by volunteers and colourful throughout the different seasons. The church is open during the day and welcomes visitors. As you approach the main door you glimpse a glorious view across to the Chevin and even as far as Almscliffe Crag. Inside the church you will find a pamphlet highlighting interesting features if you wish to explore the building.
Though the churchyard cannot accommodate new graves, a stone kerb is included in the Garden of Remembrance for commemorative plaques. Many other additions have been made since the Millenium, notably the development of gardens to enhance the beauty of the churchyard, a conservation area already planted with a variety of wild flowers and bulbs. These beds are shown on the churchyard plan above and described in the notes which follow.
There are special times of the year when the churchyard is at its most striking, eg carpets of snowdrops make for a magical experience in late January/February; then in March and May when woodland plants and bulbs are most colourful.
To help explore, the diagram above has colour coded areas, the text under similarly colour coded headings describing the various areas.
The main steps
The development of borders either side of these steps began with laying of weed suppressant. The selection of shrubs includes lavender, sarcococca, choisya, fuschia and hebes, together with various heathers. Some have been planted in commemoration of loved ones.
The sloping path
This very long border running from the entrance opposite the Menston Arms right up to the church building has many plants added to the original northern tree-lined boundary of the churchyard. At the bottom end is a mass of bulbs, hellibores and primroses. This area already contained a large number of snowdrops. Further up, under the sycamores, more bulbs and primroses were planted, together with camellias and azaleas.
Towards the top of the path where there are no trees larger shrubs have been planted including buddleia, ceanothus, spirea, magnolia, sage, cornus with bergenia, lilies and pinks at the front of the border.
Around the memorial seat (one of two, the other being near the Garden of Remembrance), fragrant roses, lavender and daphne have been established.
The border linking this area to that in front of the Parish Room contains acers, azaleas, pieris and laurel beneath which are more bulbs, primroses and cyclamen.
Around the Parish Room
This area has been planted with hellebores, primroses, candelabra primroses, cyclamen and various grasses. It is best in Springtime.
Behind the Parish Room
Across the grassy plot containing some gravestones lies an area little noticed by those who keep to the paths. Here, at the churchyard’s edge, are trees and shrubs intended to attract wildlife, including birds. These include a buckthorn alder, native species of rose, hawthorn, fuschia and hazel, with hardy fuschia at the front of the border and clematis along the fence, to add colour.
Developed in 2013 to accommodate plants and bulbs left in pots in the Garden of Remembrance, they are planted in the border after a few weeks. The border has also been planted with a variety of herbaceous plants and clematis.
At the bottom of the main path, to the left of the gates an ancient beech overhangs the ground set aside as a conservation area, planted with bulbs and wild flowers and developing each year. A small border at the end of this area has been created with herbaceous perennials and grasses.
A variety of trees can be found in the churchyard including some planted in memory of loved ones. Established standards include the magnificent beech, hawthorn, crab apple, cherry, laburnum and holly, with a row of large sycamore along the boundary with the 17th century Fairfax Hall. Recently, six of the original trees, condemned as dangerous, were replaced by ornamental trees to provide seasonal colour and to attract wildlife.
They join the Millenium Yew, planted as a sapling in 2000. Grown from one of the UK’s 32 ancient yews. The churchyard tree comes from the Llanfaredd Yew in Powis, reckoned to be about 3,000 years old. It stands as a symbol of life constantly renewing itself.
The diverse mix of scattered uneven graves, pathways, borders, trees and hedges demands a lot of attention, hard work and finance. If you are local you can help by joining the dedicated team of volunteers who maintain and develop the churchyard. Or, if you cannot make a physical contribution, you can make a donation.
Contact the Vicar, Rev Ruth Yeoman, tel 01943 877739, or the Parish office: tel 01943 872433.