CHIS & St Andrew's Churchyard

Feb 22, 2021

In the mid-50s the City Council took responsibility for this tranquil spot in the heart of Clifton. Although well maintained for a long period, by the mid-80s it was receiving only minimal attention. As a result CHIS decided in 1998 to undertake clearance of the graveyard as a Millennium Project which would last for five years. An appeal to members for funding raised an amazing £20,000.

By this time the churchyard in a sorry state. The whole area was badly overgrown, full of brambles and ivy, gravestones inches deep in dead leaves and twigs, trees and shrubs in need of pruning. Gates were locked as it would have been unsafe for the public to venture in amongst deep undergrowth and crumbling graves. CHIS resolved to transform the site into a pleasant, interesting and safe place for residents and visitors alike.

In pursuance of that aim, CHIS started by employing an arboriculturist to catalogue all the trees and assess their safety. The Bristol Natural History Society kindly did a detailed wildlife survey, even insisting that certain brambles be kept, as rare Leisler bats from a nearby colony fed on insects that bred on the brambles. A monumental stonemason was charged with advising on the safety of the gravestones, with CHIS paying, where necessary, for essential repairs.

Clearance started late in 1998 with a group of CHIS volunteers, working at least once a month, sometimes assisted by some Clifton College boys, as well as children from Christ Church Primary who helped plant snowdrops, crocuses, native bluebells, wood anemones and crocuses, although unfortunately most of the latter were subsequently devoured by squirrels! Increased light from tree pruning facilitated the re-emergence of primroses and other indigenous species. CHIS members, joined by students from nearby halls of residence, spent several weekends repainting the railings. Gates were added at the Fosseway end so that people could enter and exit easily at all points along the main path.

CHIS continued to get together working parties to maintain the churchyard until 2020, far longer than the five years originally promised. Sadly, by then volunteer numbers had dwindled and many of the original volunteers had become too old to continue with the strenuous clearing work. The decision was, therefore, taken to pass the responsibility to another group.

It is good to see the trees we planted growing, the spring bulbs flowering and people, often with children and dogs, strolling in the graveyard and enjoying this peaceful green oasis.

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