Vineyard Passage Burial Ground - the Woodland Garden

Where we are . . .

Across the road from St Mary Magdalene Church in central Richmond, a narrow passage (the Vineyard Passage) heads up the Hill between the Vestry House and the Travelodge Hotel. It leads to an old cemetery, which was transformed 50 years ago into a lightly wooded wild garden. It is secluded and quiet, and one of the lesser known treasures of Richmond.

The environment at the Burial Ground . . .

This woodland garden changes at different times of the year. In early spring, snowdrops, crocus and daffodils flower in the open spaces between the trees.

They are followed by some of the trees - cherries from Japan, native crab apple, laburnums and lilac. Then in May the space below the tree canopy is filled with the frothy white of Queen Anne’s Lace, touched with blue from bluebells and alkanet.

See more Vineyard Passage photos in our flickr collection

The Burial Ground moves into its summer tranquillity from May, when the main flowering is over. It becomes a green oasis of quiet, only yards from the bustle of central Richmond. There is still some colour here and there - a few fuchsias, some roses, a patch of native wild flowers at the top.

With autumn come the wild fruit that the birds like to feed on - crab apples, cherries, rose hips and berries on elder, rowan, cotoneaster, hawthorn and ivy. And there are even flowers through the winter on some trees and shrubs, a few scented on the warmer days.

Birds, insects and squirrels love this area as it provides food, shelter and safe places to hide, so it is something of a nature reserve as well. In spring, the birds are wearing their breeding plumage to attract a mate and are busy building nests. As their families fledge, the garden is filled with activity. Later, the birds keep a low profile, as they begin the tiring process of moulting feathers and growing new. They tend to keep hidden among the foliage.

There are also occasional visitors in autumn, particularly redwings, who come from Scandinavia to feed on the berries and stay for the winter.

The Vineyard Passage Burial Ground Group has been tending this place for some years. We meet every month on the first Saturday, to litter-pick and keep it in decent order, but not too tidy - it is meant to be a wild garden. Over the years we have planted and replaced trees and shrubs, improved paths, managed the perennial problems of invading ivy and alkanet, and repaired tombs and gravestones (a key part of the overall scene). We hold an annual summer cake stall to raise funds. Recently we have added information boards with general information for passers by, and a cabinet to display our notices, We have also put up a notice cabinet in the Passage to display brief biographies of the more interesting people buried here - including those seeking fame or fortune in the former British Empire, French aristocrats fleeing their Revolution of 1789, and people who have made their mark in other ways. See our Vineyard Passage - History page for further information.

For any further information, please contact us.