The Living Churchyard Scheme aims to help churches manage their churchyards in a wildlife-friendly way, while being sensitive to the needs of all churchyard users.
Churchyards are important places for people, but they can be havens for wildlife too. As these habitats remain largely undisturbed, numerous plants and animals have space to thrive. With good management, wildflower rich churchyards can support a diverse ecosystem.
Many ancient meadows and pastures rich in wildflowers, butterflies and insects have been lost since the Second World War, due to the widespread use of fertilizers and herbicides. Churchyards can be the last refuge for wildlife in some cases and also play an important role in enabling species to move from one place to another.
In 2016 we also began to hold regular monthly Churchyard working parties. So far we have been focusing on coppicing the many Sycamores and Laurels which surround the Church, which had become very overgrown and were taking a lot of light away from the Yew Trees. The coppiced trees are now much easier to manage going forward and the Yew Trees are slowly beginning to recover. From the prunings we created a beautiful natural fence to separate the car park from the wildlife area.
We have also been creating many new habitats such as wildlife wood piles which are beneficial for many species, as well as new habitats for hedgehogs, stag beetles and amphibians.
We are always looking for more people to work in the churchyard. Tasks include all of the regular gardening jobs; mowing, clearing, weeding, pruning etc. There are jobs suitable for all ages and abilities so please make contact to find out when we are next meeting.
We have just begun to manage our churchyard at Bedmond in accordance with the principles of the Living Churchyard Scheme and initially undertook a Flora survey which listed over 40 species, including the grasses, trees, mosses, fungi and all the living creatures that depend on them. In August 2017 we arranged a Moth Watch and recorded the species we found.
As such we already have a rich flora and fauna but are seeking to encourage greater diversity and also maintain a healthy balance. With this in mind, areas of the Churchyard are managed in different ways. The grassed pathways around the Church and the car park are regularly mown for practical reasons and to provide a fit setting for the Church. Around these pathways and the car park though, and especially in our large field area, we leave the grass to grow long during the summer months to encourage different flowers, butterflies, moths and birds. This also allows caterpillars that feed on the wildflowers and grasses time to pupate. In this way we are trying to conserve and encourage as diverse a range of wildflowers as possible.
Members of our congregation attended a scything course in the summer of 2016 to learn how to manage the grassland in an ancient and more environmentally friendly way. Following this we were awarded a Green Grant from the Diocese towards the purchase of our own scythe for Bedmond and we have just begun to use it.