Our church grounds are in a poor state of repair and we want to improve them for our current church hall users, our congregation and all those who we wish to attract to events and services in our buildings. We need our grounds to
reflect the warmth and welcome of the inside of our building and the congregation who worship there.
Although our grounds are not public rights of way, they are used by many residents as well as Hall users and the congregation. For example, we have been delighted by the use of our car park during the pandemic by local families. However, our insurers and the Newcastle diocese have identified real dangers of the uneven pathways and broken paving stones and we are required to take action.
When thinking about our grounds we talked to different users and the following key ideas are part of this proposed design:
Welcoming and clear entrances to the grounds
Spaces for play and re-creation
Sustainable, bio-diverse planting
Single level accessibility for pushchairs, wheelchair users etc.
Ease of maintenance
Our Church Council want to combine safety upgrading with appropriate improvements to our footpaths and grounds to make St Marys a more inviting, accessible and welcoming place.
THE PROCESS SO FAR
We contacted landscape architects and met with three different firms to discuss our ideas about what we want and need. We have selected one firm as a preferred partner on the basis of their local knowledge, experience and expertise as well as the level of attention and empathy with our ideas and needs. In March 2019 we distributed an initial sketch idea for consultation with the congregation, local residents and hall users. The car park was resurfaced in January 2020.
THE LATEST DESIGN
We published the design below in 2021 and asked for community feedback. The images are best viewed on a desktop device, but are still accessible on tablets and mobile phones. Click on the large image to enter fullscreen mode.
YOUR VIEWS HAVE BEEN WELCOME AND WE HAVE ACTED ON THEM
The plans may look very similar but there have been small changes, particularly in respect of eco changes. We have included cycle racks, bat and bird boxes, bug hotels, raised beds, bird and bee friendly plants.
We consulted with our architect and the diocese and we feel that we have produced a design which will enhance our church building and allow the grounds to become part of the community. Our focus has been to reduce maintenance whilst creating friendly and welcoming areas for use by many groups of people as well as a reflective and meditative area for sole use. Our consecrated area will be clearly and respectfully sign posted.
We have invited tenders from three local firms and after due deliberation and with the approval of the PCC we have chosen BCE Northern Ltd to carry out the work. We felt they were sympathetic to the design and fully understood our needs. The diocese have accepted our design and we expect work to start in May.
The Working Group is composed of Roger Windass, Cheryl Savage and David Tompkins who are all happy to talk about any aspect of this project.