Three local churchyards have been visited by Easingwold Deanery’s ‘Caring for the Environment’ group in order to learn about and promote the ways they are managed to encourage wildlife, as well as being a dedicated and dignified space for the parish.
The ‘Living Churchyards’ project reports, “As the countryside in Britain becomes more industrialised and urbanised, there are fewer places for wildlife to live and wildflowers to grow.” In some parts of the country churchyards are the only protected eco-systems where remnants of the local flora and fauna can survive. More than 6,000 British churchyards run their small plots of land as sacred eco-systems – without pesticides and mowing the grass only once a year – ensuring that birds, reptiles, insects and bats can thrive. “This is an example of restoring something that has always existed – the local churchyard – as an embodiment of the church’s core teachings about respecting nature.”
- Huby and Sutton-on-the-Forest All Hallows Cemetery (a churchyard extension between the two villages) has been managed to encourage wildlife for 25 – 30 years, with a signed area set aside as hay meadow. This is cut once annually, and the cuttings removed so as not to re-seed the area with grass and not to fertilise it (wild flowers generally do better in poor soil). It is important to keep the vicinity of still-visited graves tidy and accessible; the wild areas tend, by contrast, to enhance this, and mown paths through them stress that the land is being properly managed. A noticeboard by the gate lists the wild flowers which have been identified there (over 68 varieties) and birds (over 39 species recorded).
- Marton-on-the-Forest churchyard has been very well managed for wildlife for the last three years by a dedicated volunteer. The whole area is kept as ‘wild’, with mown paths to allow access, demonstrating that it is being looked after. Some additional flowers have been planted or sown as seeds, but these have still to establish themselves. The grass is cut once a year using a scythe (middle picture) in preference to a mechanical strimmer, since this is feasible for such a relatively small area. Many butterflies were in evidence, as well as a bumblebee nesting hole.