During the mid and late 1900’s it was not an uncommon practice across the country for stillborn babies or ‘born sleeping’ babies to be quickly taken from mum to avoid undue suffering and stress. In those days it was thought mum would ‘get over’ the trauma more easily if their little one was whisked away. Thank goodness, that is not the case nowadays with a far greater understanding of the need to grieve.
In the old Folkestone cemetery (Cheriton Road), our small volunteer group was able to identify a small slip of land to the side of the old mortuary building, which records indicate is where some ‘born sleeping’ babies were likely buried (some would be buried at the foot of an adult open grave if there was one). Snowdrops planted in that area to commemorate the born sleeping babies many years ago still make a show in early Spring to remind us of those ‘born sleeping’ babies – but after the cemetery closed to new burials in the late 1900’s this small slip of land was forgotten and overgrown with brambles, and sometimes rough sleepers would pitch their tents their, hidden by the overgrown hedges.
Having identified the overgrown area to the side of the old mortuary building – our volunteer group decided to create a ‘born sleeping’ babies memorial garden – which would be full of white-flowered shrubs – we named this area the White Garden.
The area is covered in nettles and weeds, so we have been putting old matting down to suppress the weeds and create small planting islands – and this week we made a big leap forward with lots of help from FHDC which has supported our efforts throughout.
Our FHDC representative Carl has worked closely with us, providing valuable suggestions and advice on planting and everything else we need so that we could start planting our white flowering shrubs in the cleared areas. A few days after planting commenced, a concrete base was laid in readiness for a bench to be placed – so that come Springtime there will be a lovely serene place for visitors to the cemetery who wish sit quietly.
One of our volunteers, Carole, has devised a plan which keeps us on track because we still have lots of work to do in the White Garden. Normally throughout the year our volunteers work in twos or threes on various clearance projects or research projects in the cemetery – but under Carole’s leadership and watchful eye and with continued support from Carl our FHDC friend, we are working together as a group so that by early next year we will have all the weeds in this area suppressed and cleared by non-chemical means.
Hopefully, if all our shrubs survive the bunnies (we have put recycled shrub protection in place) – we will have a lovely informal memorial garden to show for our efforts. The picture is a Before picture – and I hope to show you the After picture in Spring.