The Newington Cemetery Interest Group (NCIG), which was set up by and reports to Grange Prestonfield Community Council, formulated its Vision in April 2015, and drew up a plan for immediate and longer term action. In June 2017 NCIG reviewed and updated its strategic objectives.
Our long-term vision for Newington Cemetery is to see it returning as closely as possible to its former glory, with headstones and other masonry restored to good order where practical, and well-maintained pathways. The cemetery would also have a substantial wild area, sustaining more (and more diverse) wildlife and plant life than it traditionally would. Information on important aspects of the cemetery, such as the profiles of interesting people buried there, would be available. All in all it would be an attractive welcoming public space in South Edinburgh for anyone to enjoy respectfully - and one where local people are important stakeholders.
We have made steady progress since April 2015, with the active help of the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) through the Cemeteries Department, now integrated into the Parks, Greenspace and Cemeteries Service. The progress has been achieved mainly through the efforts of monthly working parties, usually attended by 12-14 people.
In consultation with the CEC, we have cleared significant sections of the cemetery, including the areas around the catacombs and the War Memorial, but always mindful of the Cemetery's importance as a wildlife habitat. We have planted appropriate trees, shrubs and wildflowers where they will have most visual impact. Birds are now monitored and recorded, and the results posted on the website. Two benches have been installed at strategic view points, and more are planned.
Individual graves are now easier to find as each area is separately identified by its map location. We continue to identify and where necessary clear the graves of interesting people buried in the cemetery, often at the behest of and in collaboration with family members or their friends. These are now summarised on the website, often with additional biographical and/or historical information.
We have designed and installed two signs, with financial support from the South Central Neighbourhood Partnership: the first greets visitors at the entrance, and the second near the War Memorial alerts visitors to the beautiful avenues of trees which are such a feature of the cemetery. We have facilitated four “Doors Open Days”, organised snowdrop walks in 2016 and 2017, and with funding from South Central Neighbourhood Partnership and support of the RSPB, organised nature discovery projects in 2017. Again thanks to South Central Neighbourhood Partnership, we have also arranged for the restoration of "the fallen angel", a prominent grave in the central roundel, and hence improved the view from the cemetery entrance.
This activity is helping Newington Cemetery regain its position as an important community amenity, and we are pleased at how many local people who either knew nothing about it, or had been deterred from entering it by its overgrown state, now visit it regularly.
Liaise with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to see if a list of the soldiers buried in the Cemetery, with the location of the graves, could be made available to visitors.
Continue to use events like Doors Open Day, the Nature Crafts Activities sessions, and snowdrop walks, as a means of publicising the value of the Cemetery to the local community.
Commission a feasibility report on new gates and paths which many users of the Cemetery have suggested:
Review and commemorate dates relevant to the people buried in the cemetery: e.g. the founding of the first mill in Tampere, Finland, by James Finlayson, and the birth of Joseph van Someren Taylor, both in 1820.
Monitor implementation of the Burial and Cremation Act passed by the Scottish Parliament on the 22nd March 2016. Although the Act has been passed there are various pieces of secondary legislation which need to be laid before parliament before individual sections of the Act can be brought in to force. Initially efforts are concentrated on changes to cremation regulations etc and it is not until 2018 that draft regulations are expected to be produced for consultation dealing with burials and lair re-use. These changes, once implemented, could create both opportunities and challenges in the longer term affecting Newington Cemetery.
Consider a project to illustrate the sort of funeral that would have taken place when the Cemetery was opened, and identify notable funerals which have occurred at Newington.
Regularly consider whether the objectives of the Group could be better served as a free standing entity rather than a Sub-Group of Grange Prestonfield Community Council.
Newington Cemetery Sub-Group of Grange Prestonfield Community Council 04/09/17