One of my favourite places to take a local walk is in the burial ground of St Leonard’s in Ludlow. The grounds are now a naturalised area for people to enjoy nature and wildlife, an attractive environment that residents and visitors alike can enjoy. There are many trees including Yew trees which were grown to make bows, but as the berries are poisonous to animals (and humans), the trees had to be grown in places like churchyards where animals were excluded.
There are also some ageing Lawson’s Cypresses and self-sown Sycamores and Horse-Chestnuts. A large number of birds, butterflies and a colony of rabbits live in the grounds and there are many benches on which to sit and rest and enjoy the birdsong and the countryside views, as well as a few picnic tables and benches situated in a grass clearing.
I love to wander around the monuments and select interesting carvings, words, shapes to photograph. Often hidden by clumps of stinging nettles and moss or lichens each time I visit I see something different.
Perhaps some of you may find it creepy to enjoy a walk amongst graves, but I always find burial grounds so peaceful and relaxing and interesting. I like to imagine the lives of people who have gone before me.
St Leonard’s was first opened in August 1824 when it was clear that the old medieval cemetery was completely full. Space finally ran out during WWI and today the site contains 1400 gravestones, which have been recorded and now provides an important historical document. The site includes five listed war graves, all of which are now accessible to view. These are recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The monuments have remained in place despite repeated threats to clear the land over the years and the recording process not only recovered the texts of the inscriptions, but also demonstrated the order in which the graves were laid out showing how local social hierarchy and the ability to pay determined where the graves were placed.
The site has a long history. In 1349 the area was part of six medieval burgage plots held by Laurence de Ludlow, lord of nearby Stokesay Castle. Laurence founded a convent of Carmelite friars which continued on the site until its suppression by Henry VIII in 1538. The buildings were sold and demolished.
The Victorian building, (above) was formerly the chapel of rest and designed by George Gilbert Scott, an English Gothic revival architect, and opened in February 1871.
If you enjoy a walk, long or short, then have a look at Jo’s site where you are welcome to join in.