Welcome to St. Mary's Churchyard
The Churchyard is part of the national "Living Churchyard and Cemetery Project for Wildlife Conservation" coordinated by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT). As a result of conservation policies already introduced, the extensive wildlife records that are being kept, and the planned projects outlined for the next year, the Church was awarded a certificate by the project in June 2003.
At various times of the year different areas of grass are left uncut. This is deliberate, to encourage a number of wild flowers to grow, and to allow them time to set seeds. Since different plants flower at different times of the year, the mowing regime will vary accordingly. The grass around trees and along boundary hedges is also left uncut, in order to provide cover and habitat for various wildlife.
We maintain an overall policy of environmentally friendly management of the Churchyard. A membrane, covered with bark chippings has been laid under the yew hedge in the churchyard extension to prevent excessive weed growth.
It is hoped that, during the course of the next few years, a log of all the gravestones including inscriptions, will be completed, building on the work already done by the Local History Group. This will assist visitors who may be seeking to find information about relatives buried here.
The southern boundary has been planted up with native species of young hedging plants. The hedge will be maintained annually, and once it is mature enough it will be professionally "layed". This laying process has already been completed on a section of hedge in the northwest corner of the churchyard.
We are very grateful to the Chalgrove Parish Council for their support in maintaining this churchyard for the community.
When you visit us, please take some time to walk around the Churchyard. A leaflet is available in the Church which will help you identify the features in it, with commentaries included for areas of particular interest. You may also download this leaflet here (.pdf format).
The labyrinth was cut into the grass of the churchyard extension in May 2009. The outline shows in simple form, the shape of a scallop shell. The choice of shape is deliberate. The scallop has been symbolic of Christian pilgrimage since medieval times - a period in history when the interior walls of St. Mary's Church were being decorated with beautiful paintings depicting the stories of Jesus, and Mary his mother.
The symbolic meaning of the scallop shell comes from the Christian pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela on the coast of north west Spain. It was understood that the remains of St. James, brother to the Apostle John, were buried there. The scallop was native to those shores. Pilgrims believed that, as surely as the waves washed the shells to the shore, God's hand guided them to Santiago. The shell served practical purposes too - as a drink and food vessel, and as proof of the completion of their journey to what was then believed to be "the end of the world".
A labyrinth is itself an ancient pattern found in many cultures and different parts of the world. It differs from a maze, whose purpose with its dead ends and diversions, is to confuse, block and discourage, however much fun it may be. The labyrinth, while it may superficially look like a maze, has in fact a single path that, despite its twists and turns, leads eventually to its central place. Christians adopted the labyrinth pattern as a symbol of what had been lost to them over time - that is the actual journeying on foot to Holy places. Thus in Christian interpretation, the journey to the central place of the labyrinth (in our design the mown circle in the corner of the yew hedge) became symbolic of the ongoing and unfolding journey in and to God, the sacred centre.
You can trace the path on this design, and then enjoy walking it in the churchyard. To walk the path slowly and reflectively is to enter the symbolic world that countless others have enjoyed and still enjoy throughout the world. The labyrinth path begins and ends at the Millennium yew tree, grown from a cutting of a yew tree that was alive at the time of Christ. The labyrinth is listed on the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator website.
The Churchyard is a burial ground for this parish and is maintained in partnership with Chalgrove Parish Council. We would ask you to respect it as you would any other burial ground and to be aware of those who tend and visit graves here. Thank you for your interest and consideration. We hope that you enjoy your visit and your walk through the labyrinth.
We hope you enjoy your visit to the churchyard. If you have any comments or suggestions, please click here to contact us.
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