Imagine being born in Charfield, growing up, working, marrying and raising your children in Charfield. And then passing, and having to leave the village as there was nowhere for you to be buried. Imagine being the one left behind, having to make a long possibly difficult journey to visit the grave of your husband, wife or other beloved relative.
This was the situation in Charfield at the end of the twentieth century; the churchyards having been closed. With that in mind the Parish Council undertook to create a new burial ground, but with very little money available in the Council budget it seemed an impossible task. However, a local landowner came to the rescue.
Earl Ducie, of the neighbouring Tortworth Estate, gifted a square of land at Churchend, Charfield to the Parish for the purposes of establishing a burial ground. About an acre in size, the site – a paddock of semi-improved grassland – stood adjacent the old C13th church of St James’s with its (closed) churchard. Overlooking the village and sloping gently towards the Cotswold Escarpment to the east, the site catches the rising Sun and offers a wide vista across the spreading countryside.
Having gained agreement from the parishioners of Charfield, the Parish Council began the lengthy process of converting the field into a burial ground. This required many preliminary investigations before we could put a planning application together for the change of use. As you can imagine, being beside a medieval church and burial ground we had to involve archaeologists, as well as arranging habitat surveys, hydrological surveys and landscaping plans.
In spring of 2010 we secured conditional Planning Approval and work commenced. Hundreds of tonnes of local soil was brought in to level the slope and produce a gentle gradient, rather than the lumpy slope it was when we started. The dry and wet-stone walls were restored and new bespoke oak gates were hung. A small car park and turning head was built using geo-grids, that allow grass to grow through to retain the green feel of the site. Grass and wildflower seed was sewed, and tree and shrub planting turned the field into what we see now.
The burial ground was opened in spring 2012, and is designed to accommodate the needs of the village (as it was in 2010) for one hundred years. As the village changes, the site may fill faster, but at the heart of Charfield Burial Ground is an intention to maintain a peaceful, respectful, bio-diverse and beautiful place in which to reflect and remember, to honour our beloved dead.