St Peter’s Church in the busy centre of Bournemouth is encouraging tourists and the local community to visit its newly transformed gardens which include a historic nature trail.
The Urban Green Project is a project that regenerates neglected green spaces in urban locations and involves the community.
The project volunteers started the clean-up in 2020 to rejuvenate the three-acre church gardens.
Jane MacDonald, Parish Warden and head of the project, said that before the renovation the church was a ‘no go zone’ where a lot of people didn’t feel safe walking through the grounds. She added: ‘It was a very scary place to be.’
The clean-up took three months where the team of volunteers spent three days a week, seven hours a day tidying the yard. All the plants were donated from volunteers and local florists with some of the benches being made from upcycling.
The project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and Southern Coop, created a heritage and nature trail. MacDonald said the group ‘picked out some of the more interesting residents of the church yard which tells the history and past of Bournemouth’.
The funding also covered nature signs so people can learn about the wildlife in the church grounds such as the rare orchid, as well as signs for graves.
There is plenty of historical interest in the churchyard, notably the grave of writer Mary Shelley which also contains the heart of her husband Percy Shelley as well as the graves of many prominent locals who lived in the town.
Freya and Charlie, local residents, said they loved using the church gardens as an ‘escape from work’ where they could feel safe in a quiet and peaceful environment.
For the winter months there won’t be any events at the church yard but there are picnic tables and a café which visitors can enjoy.
MacDonald said the church was planning to add a playground and improve the picnic site.
To volunteer, contact St Peter’s Church on 01202 290986.