Green Flag Community Award: ‘Amazing achievement’ for Worthing ‘wildlife oasis’ cared for by Friends of Heene Cemetery

Worthing volunteers have been presented with the Green Flag Community Award for their conservation work at the closed Heene Cemetery.

Friends of Heene Cemetery was the only community group in West Sussex to receive the award this year and the flag was raised with pride on Saturday.

Sue Standing, chairman, said: “What an amazing achievement to be the first community group in Worthing to be awarded the Green Flag Community Award this year. Not only that, there are only five other winners in the south east.

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“A massive credit goes to all of us who carry out roles, tasks and give financial support to Friends of Heene Cemetery.”

Volunteers raise the Green Flag Community Award at Heene Cemetery

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She said it was a joint achievement with the parks department at Worthing Borough Council, which had funded the flagpole.

It has been a record-breaking year for the Keep Britain Tidy scheme, as it celebrates its silver jubilee, and Adur and Worthing Councils received a total of eight Green Flag Awards for their parks and green spaces.

Paul Todd, scheme manager, said: “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in making Heene Cemetery worthy of a Green Flag Award.”

Colourful flowers in Heene Cemetery in May 2020

“To meet the requirements demanded by the scheme is testament to the hard work of the staff and volunteers who do so much to ensure that Heene Cemetery has high standards of horticulture, safety and environmental management and is a place that supports people to live healthy lives.”

The closed cemetery, in Manor Road, is being managed with a sensitive twin-track approach that respects the graves while allowing a degree of rewilding that promotes species diversity.

The Friends have made great progress in cataloguing the site’s species and would welcome more volunteers.

Rob Tomlinson, nature photographer, said: “We can be delighted by the fact the cemetery’s careful management by the Friends of Heene Cemetery has enabled around 380 different species of plants, insects, invertebrates and butterflies, and more, to be counted and photographed since last year’s first lockdown began.

A white-tailed bumblebee at Heene Cemetery in July 2020

“As this process continues, with help from specialists and county recorders, this number is likely to become substantially higher.

“Heene Cemetery really is a wildlife oasis in the middle of urban Worthing. That such a small town centre site has proved to be so rich in species is due to several factors.”

When the cemetery was created in 1873, it made use of land that had been ancient meadow, trodden by foot and hoof, and scythed but never ploughed. Since it was closed in 1977, it has been left untreated, so the land has been spared weedkillers, artificial fertilisers and pesticides.

The Friends do not use chemicals, their approach is to support native pollinators by reducing mowing and encouraging bee-friendly plants. At the current count, there are five different species of bees and bumblebees, 28 butterflies and moths, six hoverflies and a good number of beetles, wasps and bugs that move between pollen-bearing flowers.

A speckled bush cricket at Heene Cemetery in July 2020

Rob said: “COP26 will remind us all that we need to do more for our environment, globally and locally, daily and on so many levels. Whatever changes you are already making in your household, perhaps you might look to your own garden – or several corners of it.

“Have you stopped using weedkillers? Could you plant more bee-friendly plants? Could you leave an area where you mow less or not at all? The more intractable environmental problems we face need government co-ordination but repeated, small-scale and concerted endeavours like this could really help our local insects and pollinators.

“It is salutary to think that the majority of the souls peacefully at rest in the cemetery would never have seen any of the environmental threats that we today appreciate as commonplace. How fitting, then, that their final resting place has also become a haven for wildlife in the midst of what is today a bustling urban environment.”

If you would like to support the work of the Friends of Heene Cemetery, you can become a member at an annual fee of £5. Contact the membership secretary, Friends of Heene Cemetery, c/o 77 Northcourt Road, Worthing, West Sussex BN14 7DU.

The Friends would welcome volunteers interested in taking part in species counts, site management, researching the burials and administrative tasks. For more information, contact Sue Standing on 07771966846 or email [email protected]

The cemetery is open for visitors on Tuesdays and Saturdays, 2pm to 4pm, weather permitting. Visit www.heenecemetery.org.uk for more information.