The Closed Churchyard and Wildflower Project


Along the southern boundary of the parish of Wilsden on Laneside lies the churchyard belonging to St Matthew's church which received the souls of Wilsdeners from 1826 until the church closed in the middle of the twentieth century. The church itself was demolished in 1962, leaving a green footprint amongst the tombstones.

In subsequent years, the churchyard was somewhat neglected, leaving brambles and ivy free to roam and fight for space with the grass and dandelions. Maintenance lay in the hands of Bradford Council who did their best with shrinking resources to prevent the area from becoming completely overgrown.

A couple of years ago Wilsden Parish Council began negotiations with Bradford to take over the management of green spaces in the parish. Around the same time the Green Spaces Committee of the council, which includes interested non-councillors, began to develop a plan to increase biodiversity in Wilsden through the planting of wildflowers. An early proposal to create a wildflower meadow in Wilsden Cemetery did not find favour and it was therefore a natural step when thinking of alternative sites to consider the closed churchyard. The combination of the transfer of responsibility for managing the area and the possibilities that might be offered led to the start of the Closed Churchyard and Wildflower project.

To many eyes some wildflowers may be seen as weeds and it was certainly true that the churchyard was weedy and therefore the basis of a wildflower area was already there. As precisely what lay within the undergrowth could not be known until it was cleared, it was decided that the overgrown vegetation would be removed. The purpose was twofold: to discover anything of interest and to provide information for the new contractors responsible for the maintenance of the site after Bradford had relinquished control. It was also decided to put out a call for volunteers on Wilsden Residents' Facebook. Sue Downs, a non-councillor member of the Green Spaces committee offered to co-ordinate the project.

The appeal for help on Facebook struck a chord and volunteers were recruited and made great strides in taming the grass, clearing ivy, exposing formerly hidden headstones and revealing what is growing beneath.

We are monitoring the wildflowers that are already growing in the cemetery and have also planted a wildflower area in the S.W. corner.Other areas of the cemetery have been planted with woodland flowers more suited to shade and damp conditions.These were populated by donations and a grant from Shipley Area Committee.Woodland plants have also been donated by members of the committee and volunteers.

The reaction of people passing through the churchyard has been positive but couched in terms that reflect the improved tidiness of the area brought about by the grass cutting. The project is informed by Caring for God's Acres, a national charity that specializes in supporting groups working to promote the use of burial grounds for wildlife havens and places of enjoyment for people.

The next stage of the project is to let the grass remain unmown in order to prevent the wildflowers from being trampled on. Following the cutting of the grass in September volunteers will be asked to continue the tidying up of the graves. In the meantime, only the edges of the paths will be strimmed.

Long term plans include the consideration of the provision of information panels with facts about the wildflowers that can be seen and also the history of the church that once stood on the site.

The Parish Council was awarded £200 by the Cleaner Parks, Streets and Open Spaces Fund and this money has covered 50% of the cost of this project.  



The Closed Churchyard


Volunteers at work on the project


Wildflower in bloom

Wilsden Parish Council, in conjunction with Wilsde...

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