Projects in the Churchyard

Over the years the Friends have been involved in a variety of interesting projects and we’d like to give you just a flavour of our achievements.

Bellie Churchyard consists of two sections separated by a stone wall. The old, lower section is the historical one and it contains what remains of the old church, the Mausoleum and many interesting headstones and monuments.     The old section requires most attention but work is also being carried out in the newer section.

ian-and-gordon-baxterGordon and Ian Baxter decided some years ago to improve Bellie Churchyard and generous legacies have been left by both brothers to ensure that the churchyard can be maintained for many years so come.  Gordon’s initial talks with three key players in Fochabers at the time (Reverend Canon Bernard McDonald of St Mary’s Church, Mr Hamish Moir of Bellie Church and Reverend Susan Wiffin of Gordon Chapel proved very encouraging and in 2002 these discussions led to the formation of ‘The Friends of Bellie Churchyard’(FOBCY).

Thus, a group of like-minded people came together for the benefit of the community, to promote the conservation, restoration and improvement of Bellie Churchyard, and to encourage public interest in its monuments, buildings and records together with its ecology and the natural beauty of its settings.  They also wanted to seek ways of improving public knowledge of the churchyard’s history.

With the support and help of the team from the Environmental Services Department of Moray Council, the FOBCY set to work.

Phase 1:

  • clearing ivy and self-seeded trees and plants;
  • planting bulbs, creating small garden areas;
  • upgrading paths;
  • the installation of seating;
  • repairs to damaged stones;
  • the creation of an improved car parking area. The ‘greencrete’ material used is environmentally friendly and prevents the ground from becoming boggy – a great benefit to visitors and especially appreciated by those attending funerals;
  • working in conjunction with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, a planting programme was introduced within the churchyard. New garden areas were established and maintained by members and volunteers who continue to enjoy coming along to our garden working parties.

Phase 2:

With the continuing support of our friends at Moray Council, FOBCY work to enhance the church
yard with a number of new and interesting features for visitors to enjoy:

  • an illustrative Information Board, featuring a design by local artist, John Tasker of Drybridge, provides an excellent guide – both practical and historical.
  • a splendid stone cross was erected where the entrance roadway joins the Spey Bay road – it can be clearly seen by those approaching and the inscription proudly reflects the origins of the churchyard dating back to 1130 AD.
  • The Moray Burial Ground Research Group (MBGRG),
    under the guidance of Bruce Bishop (a member of the FOBCY and a past chairman) spent many hours carefully collating the inscriptions on the gravestones.   Some 40 flat burial stones dating back to the early 1700’s were carefully uncovered *.   Each stone was recorded, photographed and then carefully covered up again to preserve it for generations to come. This information was subsequently published in ‘Monumental Inscriptions – Bellie Churchyard and the New Cemetery Parish of Bellie’
  • ‘The Story of the Old Church and Churchyard of Bellie’ –  the FOBCY commissioned Bruce Bishop to write a history of the Churchyard and environs, providing an interesting and useful insight into the general history of the Fochabers area;
  • a new website was introduced, promoting the works of the Friends and to help bring news to the many families with Fochabers connections at home and abroad.  This has also led to new contacts from all over the UK and from Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand, investigating their family history;
  • a leaflet was designed to promote the work of The Friends and to encourage membership of this special group 

With the support and help of the team from the Environmental Services Department of Moray Council, the FOBCY set to work.

Phase 3:

The FOBCY continue to maintain the existing garden areas but plans are now well advanced to extend these works into the new cemetery with a view to making it a more attractive and welcoming place to visit.

 So far the Friends have achieved a great deal …

  • the planting of a selection of decorative trees such as cherry, crab apple and rowan has given added interest to the overview of the cemetery;
  • an overgrown cotoneaster hedge has been cut back and replaced with neat willow fencing which will now support trailing plants such as clematis and honeysuckle; this allows an increased turning area for vehicles;
  • new kerbing has been installed to add further protection to the graves;
  • the entrance roadway has been resurfaced;
  • stepping stones have been introduced and seats have been rubbed down and treated;
  • ironwork on gates and benches has been rubbed down, treated and repainted;
  • two new bin stores have been erected to ensure that visitors to both areas of the churchyard can use the recycling facilities available and generally keep the surroundings tidy.

During 2015:

The FOBCY plan to continue with regular garden working parties from March to October. The grassy entrance area leading from the road is due to be landscaped and given a splash of colour with tubs of seasonal flowers .

All the many projects described here would not have been possible without the help and valuable support of the Moray Council, Community Services Department and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh  All have all played a considerable part in the success of the Friends.

Our main asset is our people … our members and volunteers who help maintain the garden areas.  As a result of Gordon and Ian’s legacies, the Friends are also able to use the services of Mr Dougie Low, a professional gardener, who has worked with the Baxter family for many years.  Dougie oversees a great deal of the work done at Bellie Churchyard and his tireless efforts to go that extra mile for the FOBCY are greatly appreciated.

It is hoped that the whole of the Bellie Churchyard will in time become more frequently visited by relatives and friends, that they will see it as a place of beauty, peace and tranquillity and perhaps re-create the old Victorian tradition of an afternoon stroll around the churchyard, to meet together and remember those who have gone before.

We trust that visitors to Bellie Churchyard and to this website will agree that the vision of Ian and Gordon Baxter has been realised and that the Friends of Bellie Churchyard are indeed playing a valuable part in caring for an important part of our heritage.