Norfolk woman becomes one of country's few grave tenders

Vanessa Pritchard, from Sheringham, at All Saints church in Beeston Regis. Miss Pritchard has started a business tending...

Vanessa Pritchard, from Sheringham, at All Saints church in Beeston Regis. Miss Pritchard has started a business tending to graves. - Credit: Supplied by Vanessa Pritchard

Churchyards and cemeteries have become a place of work for a north Norfolk woman, who has joined Britain's small, but growing group of professional grave tenders.

Vanessa Pritchard, from Sheringham, said there had been a steady demand since she launched Goldfinch Grave Tending in November last year. 

Miss Pritchard, 48, said Covid travel restrictions was just one of many reasons people were interested in the service.

She said: "Some people are physically unable to visit graves through age or ill heath, some like to take their own flowers but want someone else to do some tidying up, and for others it's too far away to travel. Some people find it too distressing, but still want someone to go to their loved one's graves on their behalf." 

St Andrew's church in Little Snoring is one of the locations where Vanessa Pritchard has tended graves.

St Andrew's church in Little Snoring is one of the locations where Vanessa Pritchard has tended graves. - Credit: Supplied by Vanessa Pritchard

Miss Pritchard had previously worked in catering for 30 years, and found herself contemplating a career change when she was on furlough last year.

She chanced upon a website of another grave tender in Lincolnshire, and decided to set up a similar venture. 

"It was time for a change, so I thought let's try this, and the company was born," she said.

The graveyard at St Andrew's church in Holt is one of the locations where Vanessa Pritchard has tended graves. 

The graveyard at St Andrew's church in Holt is one of the locations where Vanessa Pritchard has tended graves. - Credit: Supplied by Vanessa Pritchard

 

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Miss Pritchard said there were only 15 to 25 people in the whole country working as grave tenders.

She said: "It's a relatively new type of trade - those who are doing it are also new to it. We're in the process of starting up an association of grave tenders."

Miss Pritchard said the thought of tending graves for a living seemed odd to some people, but she enjoyed the work.

"I'm from an agricultural background so being outdoors comes naturally to me," she said.

"Churchyards are so peaceful and I love being in the nature.

"As a nation, we aren't very good at talking about death, and grief can be a very personal thing. I feel very privileged that they've asked me to do this, because it is so personal."

St Botolph's church in Grimston is one of the locations where Vanessa Pritchard has tended graves.

St Botolph's church in Grimston is one of the locations where Vanessa Pritchard has tended graves. - Credit: Supplied by Vanessa Pritchard

Services Miss Pritchard can undertake at graves include removing old flowers, gardening and tidying up around the grave and planting or placing new flowers or tributes.

She covers mostly north Norfolk but also visits other parts of the county, and charges between £28-£60 for a single visit, and also has plans for regular visits. 


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