Long-standing members of St Mary’s will know that the condition of the Churchyard and the Moorings at St Mary’s have been an ongoing challenge for a long time.
Happily, things concerning the churchyard are now showing distinct signs of improvement and there are even signs of hope about the Moorings, which have been perplexing the PCC for decades.
For over a hundred and fifty years now, the Churchyard has been closed for burials, although ashes can still be buried in the rose border not far from the south-west door of the church. Since the early 1900s, responsibility for the maintenance of the Churchyard
and its walls have been the responsibility of the Local Authority for fifty years the Churchyard has been maintained as a Public Open Space. It is not a right of way, however, and still belongs to the Church.
There have been a number of attempts to improve the Churchyard beyond bare maintenance but things have slipped over recent years. Happily, as now can be seen
emerging, a low-fenced area together with a new clear cycleway has been created on
the north side of the Church, which we are expecting to see landscaped, re-grassed and
hedged during the autumn. This has been a project chiefly funded by Thomas’s
Kindergarten, who have long wished to have a safer play area for the children who
attend. We are hopeful that they will be playing in this area (which will also become
dog-free) not too long after they return in September. Wandsworth Council will also be
improving some of the signage, which will also allow the PCC to replace old and erect
some new sign boards around the Churchyard. Finally, once the children have moved into
their new area, Wandsworth Council will do some repair landscaping to the Churchyard
to the south of the Church, which will make that look much tidier and attractive.
There has been a long-standing concern and debate, both within the Church and the
community, about the behaviour of a few cyclists who cycle dangerously through the
Churchyard. We have already noticed some improvement in behaviour by creating the
new cycle way, but will continue to monitor the issue and work with the Council to take
further steps if safety remains a concern. The PCC and the Council believe it is generally
safer to have people cycling through the Churchyard than around the narrow pavement
and dangerous blind corner on Battersea Church Road.
Matters concerning the repair of the river wall and the issue of the Moorings remains –
not surprisingly! – more complicated, but there is a renewed sense of energy and
partnership among most barge owners and all the public bodies involved (the Port of
London Authority and Wandsworth Council). The repair of the wall must be done for
safety reasons as soon as feasibly possible and the PCC will be considering an outline
business case for operating a new mooring scheme at its next meeting.
There is a strong Moorings Project Group hard at work on developing this and, for the first time, we have some expert moorings and river knowledge as part of that Group. Little more can be said at this stage, but the signs are more hopeful than they have been in my time at St Mary’s.