According to English Heritage, there are nearly 7,000 hectares of cemeteries in England and nearly all of them have some special local, if not national, importance. Nonetheless, judgements have to be made concerning their historic, aesthetic, wildlife and amenity value, and the extent to which they can sustain change or should be preserved as they are. The question of how best to manage these large and complex sites can best be solved by co-operation between the various professional disciplines and interested parties involved. An integrated approach makes it much easier to manage the cemetery effectively, find the right balance between high-level maintenance and benign neglect. For example, it is not true that wildlife will always flourish best where natural processes have been left to take their course; the right kind of management encourages diversity and balances the need to preserve historic interest with the promotion of diversity, whilst maintaining a pleasant and secure environment in which visitors can feel at ease. The Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery are fully commited to this vision of cemetery management.
The City Council themselves also endorse this approach, with their Management Plan for Jesmond Old Cemetery highlighting the unique place of the cemetery as both a wildlife corridor and its placement as a cemetery on The Register of Historic Parks and Gardens requiring a maintenance strategy that protects and enhances conservation values. Included within the Management Plan is a statement from the Ecology Officer that "it is possible to provide for wildlife without conflict with the historic and current needs of a burial ground." In adopting such a philosophy to the ongoing management of the cemetery, it is intended that English Heritage's document 'Paradise Preserved: an introduction to the assessment, evaluation, conservation and management of historic cemeteries' will form the basis of the Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery's future plans, obviously working closely with all interested parties.
ECOLOGY IN ACTION
An excellent example of this overarching commitment to sensitively managed conservation is the recent bat survey of a section of the perimeter wall and the South Lodge building, carried out by E3 Ecology Ltd on behalf of the City Council. Survey work was carried out in February of 2009 and comprised a daytime inspection of a specific section of Jesmond Old Cemetery, namely the 'brick' areas that are due to be renovated soon, where it was concluded that the risk of bats being present and roosting in suitable buildings or trees is considered to be moderate. Whilst no field signs indicating use of the wall or South Lodge by bats were found, it is considered that the use of the wall and gatehouse structures by small numbers of cool roosting pipistrelle bats is likely, that use of the wall by small numbers of hibernating pipistrelle bats during the winter months is also likely and that there is low risk of the South lodge being used by pipistrelle bats due to the walls currently being damp and draughty.
In sanctioning the planned works, the report recommends a number of 'mitigation proposals', including:
the erection of ten bat boxes, two of which must be suitable for hibernation use
works on the wall will be undertaken in stages to ensure that at any one time there will be undisturbed sections available
a total of 20 external crevice roost sites, 10 on each elevation of the wall, within the wall will be marked up and access retained/created through careful repointing
a total of 4 bat slates, 2 on each elevation, will be incorporated into the new slate roof of the refurbished South Lodge building
With these measures, it is considered that the risk of harm to individual bats can be minimised and that the conservation status of the species in the local area can be maintained.