Cherishing Churchyards Week

Saturday 24th May 2014

Cherishing ChurchyardsCherishing Churchyards © SWT

Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) is marking Cherishing Churchyards Week from 9th – 15th June by opening the Contemplative Garden in St Mary’s churchyard, Byfleet and are asking members of the public to get involved and discover the wonderful array of wildlife that churchyards contain.

Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) is marking Cherishing Churchyards Week from 9th – 15th June by opening the Contemplative Garden in St Mary’s churchyard, Byfleet and are asking members of the public to get involved and discover the wonderful array of wildlife that churchyards contain.

Churches and churchyards are often an important refuge for rare and protected species such as bats and slow worms. Many churchyards and burial grounds contain rare plants, relics of the old meadows that once surrounded the church.

Last weekend (24th May) 31 delegates from 11 churches and parishes across Surrey came together for a networking event on Living Churchyards at St Mary’s church Byfleet. Attendees heard talks on several aspects of churchyard management from wildlife and community engagement to managing regulations. The talks were followed by workshops and a networking lunch. In the afternoon there was a chance to walk around the churchyard and see the new contemplative garden and wildflower areas.

Everyone agreed it was a very useful day with calls from attendees to make the event an annual one. Among the many positive comments received were;-

“An excellent day with many new ideas and helpful advice.”

“Very inspiring to hear what has been achieved elsewhere. Great to meet other people working in churchyards.”

As part of a number of themed weeks organised by Surrey Wildlife Trust this summer, Cherishing Churchyards Week will focus on the importance of our churchyards for both people and wildlife. This is a national week celebrated across the country. Sussex Wildlife Trust and Caring for God’s Acre are holding a conference on “Our Beautiful Burial Grounds” in Haywards Heath on Saturday 14th June. For more information visit their website www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk

On Sunday 15th at 12.00 the Bishop of Dorking, acting Bishop of Guildford, will be opening the contemplative garden in St Mary’s churchyard, Byfleet. It has taken 18 months to transform this neglected garden area of the churchyard into a quiet reflective space that is enjoyed by all. Much of the work has been done by local volunteers from “The Wild Bunch” (a new group member of SWT), with support from parishioners, Byfleet brownies and local residents. Funding for the project was gratefully received from Surrey County Council.

Frances Halstead, Environmental Group Support Officer, said: “It’s amazing what this enthusiastic group have achieved in such a short space of time - creating wildflower areas in the churchyard and a contemplative garden - they are an inspiration to us all.”

“Churchyards and cemeteries are an important part of our Living Landscape which are often overlooked, but small changes to the management of these sites, allowing rare plants to flower and set seed, can have a big impact on wildlife.”

Churchyards are special places as:

• They often contain a rich diversity of plant and animal life

• They are important places for archaeology and history

• They often have distinctive and veteran trees

• The stonework and boundary walls provide a home for a mosaic of mosses, ferns and lichens

• They provide a tranquil place for quiet reflection

• They are a resource for inspiration and community learning

• They are often within walking distance of local communities and can provide a focus for community involvement

For more information and to get involved, contact Frances Halstead on 01483 795478 or email groups@surreywt.org.uk