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St Mary Magdalene’s churchyard is full of reminders of the area’s links with Polish soldiers and their families at the end of the second world war. The church building is the third to be built here. The area of land in front of the churchyard (under which are three burial vaults) was the
site of the original 15th Century timber-built church, which was demolished in 1793 due to a lack of foundations and the need for a larger church. The second church was built of brick on the same site, but fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1897. This time the church was rebuilt on the site we see today. The churchyard is an ideal habitat
for wildflowers, small mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians.

The churchyard features a range of varied habitats, from the tall mature Yew trees Taxus buccata to dense hedgerows of hawthorn with ivy growing through them, and open grassland. If you look closely in the tussocky grass at the northern end of the churchyard you can see runs possibly made by field voles, bank voles and wood mice. Moles are also evident from time to time - look out for their molehills! You may spot the tracks of larger mammals such as foxes or badgers - and may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them. Amphibians including frogs and toads are regular visitors, and the
area has a colony of Great Crested Newts - a protected species. Bumblebees, butterflies and birds abound. Bumblebees nest underground - often in the disused homes of small mammals. Butterflies are attracted by the wild flowers, and birds by the insects, the abundant seeds and the variety of nesting places. Look out for the Jackdaws Corvus monedula - a small black crow with a grey neck, seen
all year round in pairs or groups. It’s quite an acrobatic flier!

a) Snowdrop
Also known as ‘Eve’s Tears’ or Candlemas
Bells (Candlemas is 2nd Feb.)

b) Field Horsetail
Equisetum arvense L.

c) Lesser Celandine
Ranunculus ficaria

d) Cuckoo Pint Pidyn y Gog Arum maculatum
Also known as ‘Lords and Ladies’

e) Common Cats Ear
Hypochaeris radicata

f) Lady’s smock
Cardamine pratensis

g) Red Clover
Trifolium pratense

h) Cowslip
Primula Veris

i) Primrose

j) Violet
Viola riviniana

k) Yarrow
Achillea millefolium

l) Germander Speedwell
Veronica chamaedrys
Also known as Bird’s Eye

If you look around the north west corner of the churchyard, you’ll find a large number of Polish graves. There are 118 adult graves dated between November 1946 and November 1957. There are also 68 Polish children buried beneath the Yew tree in the south west of the churchyard. When WW2 ended, many people from eastern Poland chose not to return to their homeland which was now under Soviet communist rule. In 1946 the Polish army and hospital sailed from Naples to Liverpool and many Poles chose to settle in the area. A home for the hospital to continue the treatment of war veterans and their families was founded on the site of the former 129th US Army General Hospital which had been abandoned three years before, when they left for D Day. When the Polish arrived at the hospital after the war, most were in a poor state of health, suffering from disease and malnutrition. In 1947 there were burials of Polish children at the rate of 3 to 4 a day. Many of these graves were unmarked, and the mounds were levelled in 1968 to make maintenance easier. The Polish Hospital closed in 2002 and moved to another site in Penley. The graves are frequently visited by relatives tracing back their ancestors and family history.

Look out for...

Grass snakes which
may breed & hibernate in
the compost heap.
Butterflies attracted by
the sunny nettle patch
to breed.
Colourful lichens and
mosses on the older
The five mature English Yews transferred from the vicarage garden by Rev. Spoonley in 1868.



St Mary Magdalene, Penley Management Plan - click here

For a printable version of this page - click here

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How to find us

St Mary Magdalene,
LL13 0NE
The map below shows the rural churchyards taking part in the Sacred Space project. If you’ve enjoyed your visit to one of our amazing churchyards, why not discover the secrets and delights all of the others hold in store?


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