Presentation on Gravesend and Northfleet Cemeteries
Members were provided with a presentation on Gravesend and Northfleet Cemeteries. The presentation can be viewed via the following link:
During the presentation the Cemeteries and Allotments Manager highlighted that:
- Gravesend Cemetery had been established as a cemetery in1878 and designed by the architect Stephen Geary who designed Highgate Cemetery in London. Originally a pleasure garden, the front property, chapels and walls of Gravesend Cemetery were grade 2 listed.
- Members were informed of the Forget You Not Garden which is being created through rewilding at Gravesend Cemetery. The concept was to offer a calm space for bereaved visitors to reflect and also incorporate wildlife preservation. The garden will include benches inscribed with mindful quotes and a special post box. The Committee were informed that bereaved friends/family could send a letter by using the seed infused paper within the envelope to those they had lost. Loved ones would be sent an envelope, which contained a small piece of biodegradable paper infused with wildflower seeds. Once returned via the post box, these envelopes would then be buried in the gardens. As the entire envelope would be 100% biodegradable, the envelope would be planted in its entirety.
- Members were informed that the Forget you Not Garden currently had hedgehogs and the team were working with an organisation on the prospect of becoming a hedgehog release area.
- The Committee were updated that new passing bays had been introduced along the roads throughout Northfleet Cemetery to protect the grass, and to also allow for easy passing for those driving in the cemetery.
- New benches were being introduced at both cemeteries. The new benches were produced by sustainably sourced teak, guaranteed for 25 years and would not require further treatment. The benches could be purchased by loved ones and be engraved.
- The Committee were informed that there were some disused roads within Northfleet Cemetery that would be sewn with grass seed and when required the area could accommodate 30-40 new graves.
The Chair thanked the Cemeteries and Allotments Manager for her presentation and invited Members to make comment:
- Members asked if the biodegradable seed envelopes would be available for both cemeteries and whether they would also be sent to loved ones of those who had passed away previously or going forward. The Cemeteries and Allotments Manager advised that the focus for the initiative was for Gravesend Cemetery initially, with the newly created garden. It was hoped in the future that there would also be a suitable area created within Northfleet Cemetery. Members were informed that the bereaved of those buried at Northfleet, would still receive an envelope, which they could choose to use at home or be planted on their loved ones grave at Northfleet cemetery if they wished. There were also plans in place to send envelopes to those who had lost family during Covid19.
- The Committee asked for more information regarding the engraving of the new benches and whether there was any control regarding the content of the inscriptions, to avoid anything that would be deemed unsuitable. The Cemeteries and Allotments Manager advised that, as with current memorials, any text that was not in the English language would be interpreted to ensure it was appropriate, however pointed out that memorial inscriptions were not generally limited unless it was deemed offensive.
- The Committee welcomed the Forget You Not Garden and suggested having a community group to assist with the upkeep. The Cemeteries and Allotments Manager informed Members that a there was a newly appointed Cemetery Supervisor, who had previously worked at Highgate Cemetery. He had plans to arrange such a group and was hoping to also involve, schools and local groups such as Scouts and Brownies.
- Members felt that the rewilding idea was a positive concept in order to promote wildlife to the Cemetery and a great opportunity for the local community to get involved. The Cemeteries and Allotments Manager informed the Committee that going forward the ambition was to achieve a Green Flag accreditation for the cemetery, which would open the doors to future funding.
- The Committee queried what the overall, available burial space was in Gravesham’s church graveyards. The Cemeteries and Allotments Manager advised she did not have statistics for this, however would investigate a general information figure for the borough and update the Committee at a later date.
- The Chair expressed interest in a tour of the Cemeteries. The Cemeteries and Allotments Manager offered to arrange a historic tour for the Committee plus to show future plans.
- Members queried whether the concept of over wilding had received any criticism from the public. The Cemeteries and Allotments Manager advised that there had been some negative comments, however once explained, especially in regard to the protected species, such as slow worms and hedgehogs on site, people became interested and supportive. It was noted that many compliments had been received also.
- The Committee queried how the wildlife within the garden would be promoted to encourage more public engagement. The Cemeteries and Allotments Manager updated that the project had a 5 year plan, which was currently in year one. The objective this year was to establish the type of wildlife attracted to the gardens. There were plans to hopefully include bat and bird boxes with the possibility of beehives. Members were informed that in year two, the Communications team would be assisting to provide information boards in the gardens, to explain what wildlife could be seen within the space.
The Committee commended the presentation and supported the initiative.