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Cherishing Churchyards

Posted: Wednesday 11th June 2014 by Nature Notes

This week 9th-15th June is National Cherishing Churchyards week, organised by God’s Acre to highlight the importance of churchyards for people and wildlife

Churchyards are important as part of our “Living Landscape” helping to link wildlife sites through wildlife corridors and stepping stones.

This week is a good time to celebrate what Surrey Wildlife Trust has helped to achieve in partnership with other organisations and communities.

Over the past 5 years we have given management advice to 17 churchyards and cemeteries across Surrey and have worked with volunteers and local communities to help protect several rare plants.

Churchyards are important as part of our “Living Landscape”, helping to link wildlife sites through wildlife corridors and stepping stones. Churchyards and cemeteries were often built in old meadows and in some cases remnants of these meadows still remain in the rare plants found there. By managing churchyards sympathetically and allowing these rare plants to flower and set seed we can help to stop the decline in our biodiversity.

At a recent networking event at St Mary’s Byfleet, 31 delegates from across Surrey got together to discuss churchyard management, regulations and community involvement. The event was a great success. It was nice to hear the busy hum of discussion over lunch, with people swapping contacts and experience. The delegates found the day so useful they have requested that we make this an annual event.

Managing churchyards for wildlife is a delicate balance between meeting the needs of wildlife and managing the expectations of parishioners, relatives and mourners. There is still much work to be done and this was brought home to me only last week when I heard of one rare plant in a churchyard nearby which had been strimmed just as it came into flower.

It is not all bad news, attitudes to churchyard management are changing and areas of long grass have been left for wildlife at several churches in Surrey.

This Sunday we are marking Cherishing Churchyard week by opening the contemplative garden in St Mary’s Byfleet. This woodland garden has been created from a neglected corner of the churchyard and has taken 18 months to complete with help from parishioners, volunteers and local Brownies. 

Funding for the project came from Surrey County Council and everyone is looking forward to the culmination of their hard work. “The Wild Bunch” as the volunteers are known is a new group member of SWT and what they have achieved in a short space of time is an inspiration to all.

Visit the God's Acre website

Frances Halstead

Community Engagement Co-ordinator

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