I loathe a tidy churchyard. I hate to see their freshly mown grass and neatly trimmed edges. Give me unkempt, wild and natural graveyards any day.
Churchyards can often be ancient grassland habitats, providing havens for over 100 species of wildflowers, millions of insects, as well as birds and mammals. Bats can still be found in the belfries managed by wildlife-friendly churchyard keepers (sorry, who manages these sites? Does the parish have a gardener? Or does the priest gets his hoe out when he’s not delivering mass?)
The Wildlife Trusts run a Churchyard Conservation Scheme across many of it’s organisations, which aims to support churches to manage their outside space in a wildlife-friendly manner to promote biodiversity and provide vital corridors between habitats in the countryside.
What makes ancient churchyards such great resources for wildlife is that they have escaped the plague of modern pesticides and chemicals that have damaged other parts of the countryside. Lichen love to colonize gravestones, and ferns adore damp church walls, so it’s not just the grassland but also the church buildings themselves that provide homes to plant and insect life.
A secular charity called ‘Caring for God’s Acre‘ launched recently to preserve wildlife in the UK’s 20,000 churchyards, cemeteries and burial grounds. It focuses on the following 6 flagship species:
Have you visited any wildlife-rich churchyards recently? I’ll be sharing a few in the followings month of those that I’ve visited in Norfolk.