A project to transform a forgotten graveyard into a memorial garden has been given a nationally-recognised award.
The Brookside Memorial Garden Community Group received its first recognition from the South and South East in Bloom awards, which recognises gardening achievements from across the area.
The garden in Brookside Avenue, Rustington, which has been renovated since 2015, was given an ‘advancing award’ as part of the ‘it’s your neighbourhood’ category.
Sue Sula, who has led the project, said it was an ‘amazing event’ and she was ‘extremely shocked’ by the award, ‘bearing in mind it was our first entry’.
She said: “I am extremely proud of everyone who has helped to get this project off the ground - it has been a long journey and still lots to do so it can be opened for the community to enjoy.
“Thanks again to all those members of the community who have come on the journey with me; without their help this would still be ‘the forgotten graveyard’.”
The graveyard is home to 57 people who are buried there, but it was forgotten over time and became derelict.
The project to turn the graveyard into a memorial garden has included uncovering the grave markers and allowing family members to see them for the first time in decades.
The judges comments for the garden said: “A first time entry in the making since 2015. A clearly staggering transformation from a forgotten old burial ground,
abused by the developer and covered in rubbish, to a true community asset.
“As a disused and un-consecrated cemetery the greatest respect has been afforded to the reclamation of this site.
“All tributes and original features have been carefully retained and saved, or worked into the evolving landscape.
“Great care has been taken to research the incumbents and involve their relatives in the development of the site.
“This has been aided by the services of a local historian who has become a valuable member of the team.
“Despite not having tenure of the site for grant aid purposes, and the unlikeliness of achieving it, the team have worked hard to source monies from local businesses.
“The lack of title to the site has presented problems and development of the site has been slower than the team would wish.
“However, money has been well spent and is evident in the high quality fencing, furniture and features which make up the scheme. Clearly work in progress.
“This is not just another tidy up of neglected land but an exercise that requires a great deal empathy and respect bearing in mind its former use and those connected with it.
“Great credit to Sue and her team for getting the garden to this stage and managing it so well.”