Monday, 29 July 2019

Tuesday 23rd  July 2019

An extremely hot and muggy day – not the best conditions for hacking away at brambles, nettles and 4 foot high vegetation, but we were at least able to cool off every now and then with cold drinks inside the church. 
We were pleased to have the company of Dr Toby Pillatt, who is working on the DEBs project and came to see what our methodology was, and to talk about our project and how it fits in with the DEBs project at the University of York. 
RTI demonstration for Toby Pillatt

Alan, Jennifer and Tony spent the morning with him demonstrating RTI photography – on both vertical and horizontal gravestones, which call for two slightly different approaches. Luckily, despite the bright sunshine, they were able to find some gravestones in the shade, although as Alan pointed out, bright sunshine is slightly less of a problem than reflective white cloud cover.

The processing of the RTI photos taken in the morning proved a little problematic – but at least it proved that the software can be temperamental – easy to use when it goes right, and you know what you are doing, but it can fall down at the slightest error or hitch. It certainly needs improving if it is going to be used on a large scale by community groups who may have limited confidence with computers.

Lunch-time gave us an excellent opportunity to discuss the technical aspects of our survey as well as funding issues, the development of the field survey app prototype, and database.

Eileen learns how to create a detailed photographic record of a gravestone
In the afternoon we braved the increasingly hot and stifling outdoors to show Toby how we survey a churchyard.  He joined in enthusiastically, helping to measure up and fill in the forms, although we spent more time clearing away the weeds and scraping off the moss to reveal inscriptions, than actually recording memorials!

Careful excavation of a collapsed gravestone which had become completely overgrown 
- final picking out of letters ready for photography
The undergrowth was so high and dense in some places that we agreed several gravestones would have to wait until the autumn before they could be recorded as they are at the moment completely hidden and inaccessible. Besides, the wild flowers were lovely and we didn’t want to disturb it too much since this is a haven for insects and birdlife. 
We can understand that the balance between maintenance of a churchyard to keep gravestones clear and accessible for visiting relatives; the increasing difficulty of financing that maintenance (which if the congregation is small and there are few willing volunteers available, can be very expensive since contractors have to be employed); and allowing churchyards to become nature reserves (for which they are ideally suited), is a very difficult one – perhaps without a real solution that is acceptable for everyone.

Jane Lunnon

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