Volunteers needed to maintain historic churchyard at Thorpe Market

Snowdrop Sunday continues to be a popular attraction at St Mary's.

Snowdrop Sunday continues to be a popular attraction at St Mary's. - Credit: Archant

It is considered to be one of the most diverse churchyards in the county and gives refuge to a number of rare wildflowers.

St Margaret's Church at Thorpe Market, near Cromer, is believed to be sited on ancient meadowland dating back hundreds of years.

It has been carefully cultivated, with only twice-yearly scything, which has allowed most of the original vegetation to survive.

However, recent storms have left the conservation area vulnerable - including the Hazel Grove, an area of consecrated ground beyond the walls of the original churchyard.

Now efforts are being made to protect it for the future.

Volunteers are being sought for a tidy up of the grounds on Saturday, March 26, at 10am.

Church volunteer Margaret Hunter said: 'The last two years have seen concerted action to bring the churchyard back into the conservation fold.

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'Historically, the area would have been meadowland for hundreds of years, the only maintenance being a twice yearly scything. We have the records to show that someone was paid 10 shillings a time in the 1920s to do just that!

'The major change was the arrival of rotary power mowers in the 20th century. Thorpe Market only introduced intensive mowing in the 1980s, so most of the original vegetation has survived. We have a Francis Frith photograph in the church showing the front of the churchyard in the 1920s.

'The current conservation areas are cut in the late summer and the debris raked off. We strive to enhance the appearance of the conservation areas by strategic mowing around the margins: most-used paths kept very short and the conservation areas left to develop and flower and given a late summer cut. A sort of golf course mind-set - putting green, fairway and 'rough'!

'In June 2015 we hosted an over-subscribed Wildflower Identification day. Plans are in hand for a Butterfly Identification day in 2016.' But she added: 'We are always seeking volunteers for around one hour a month to help cuts throughout the summer.'

Conservation-minded gardeners are sought for this sociable activity. Anyone interested should call 01263 833252 or email: info@thorpemarket.org.uk