For many years the churchyard was looked after by two retired men, Reg Bachelor and Frank Jeacock, but eventually they became too old and couldn’t manage it.
Sue Lidgley’s and my husband both died in 1998 and were buried in the churchyard
and this made us more aware of the need for more organised maintenance. In 2000
a meeting was held with John Roberts, Jean Spendlove, Conrad Woolley, Sue
Lidgley and myself. We decided to form The Friends of Helmdon Churchyard. As we
only had an old mower and no funds, Sue wrote to people outside the village who
had relatives buried here to ask them if they would give donations towards the
upkeep and they responded generously. The Parish Council also contributed £50,
which, as they would be required to provide a village burial ground if our graveyard
weren’t here, has over the years risen to £400 per annum. We also receive £80 per
year from the Commonwealth Graves Commission for the maintenance of the four
World War soldiers’ graves. The Hyhos have also given us generous grants and we
have also been given extra grants by the Parish Council.
A separate account was set up within the main PCC account and in 2001 we bought
our first new mower, to be followed by a strimmer and a second mower. Later a
wheeled strimmer was donated by the Parish Council to mow the old part of the
Initially we had a big clean-up day - a very hot day - lasting from 9 am to 3 pm, with
volunteers bringing their own tools and mowers, and subsequently have kept the
churchyard mown and tidy with a small band of volunteers, including Conrad
Woolley, Bill Elkington, Ann Smith, Danny Moody, Hugh Walmsley, Roger Miles,
David Watson, Liz Humphrey, Chris Bazeley, and Tim Wheeler. They come when
they can fit it in.
The person who made the greatest contribution to the upkeep was Rex Jessett who
spent long hours caring for the churchyard as though it was his own garden, and
mending the stone walls.It was a sad day when he had to give up due to ill health.
Teenager George Stubbs gave some valuable help to Rex as part of his Duke of
Edinburgh Silver Award and we now have Jacob Davies helping us towards his Duke
of Edinburgh Bronze Award.
Peter Payne was another volunteer who kept the paths tidy and also, at his own
expense, provided the stones and laid the path leading to the right from the front
Andy Pitt from the old Rectory, now Helmdon House, has also done a lot of mowing
for us, including the lower part of the churchyard and the banks outside our walls.
Sue Lidgley and I are very grateful for the help we get and would welcome anyone
who would like to join the volunteers.
The Friends of Helmdon Churchyard