‘Churchyards exist like small islands of time past in the midst of the modern world …. In Britain nearly all our lowland hay meadows, which once played host to wild flowers butterflies and wildlife in plenty have gone. Now the precious few remnants need to be treasured and conserved. In churchyards we can often find such remnants, possibly the only place in the parish where such life can be found.
This is true of inner city areas as it is of rural churchyards.’
The Living Churchyard
All Saints Church and Churchyard Group (CCG) have created a wildlife area which was originally proposed in September 2000 and launched in November 2002 by marking out an area in the south-eastern corner of the churchyard. This has been established as a Spring Meadow by a regime of differential mowing, bird boxes have been erected and species of flora and fauna recorded. We have been greatly encouraged in our efforts by the support we have received and by becoming joint winners of the 2003 Yorkshire Living Churchyard Project Awards – Newcomer Category.
Although the wildlife area is small and in its infancy many interesting species have been recorded including Lady’s Smock, Lesser Celandine and Meadow Saxifrage.
The CCG is an active Group, with plans for future development included these information leaflets, permanent signs and use as an educational resource by the village primary school.
In September 2000 a report was prepared and proposals were presented to a meeting of the PCC 2 months later.
' Proposals in outline:
Delineate a wildlife area
Removal of redundant store shed
Establishment of composting area
Encourage use of site as an educational resource and forge greater links with school.
Encourage birds and mammals
Extract from the September 2000 report.
The following Spring 2001 an area was 'pegged out' and a new mowing regime instigated to leave this area out of the regular mowing cycle. The wildlife area was officially 'launched' at an open day on the 19th May 2001,
where the proposals were displayed to the public, and various activities took place.
FURTHER AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
• Erect signs.
• Parish magazine, articles on progress.
• Interpretation panels.
• Record species in a database.
• Involve school (relationship already established, school are interested in being involved and establishing wildlife area within their grounds).
• Composting area.
• More open days.
• Create seating area within wildlife area.
• Propose children take part in RSPB great garden birdwatch.
• Develop CD-ROM and website information.
• Continue to communicate
• Produce series of leaflets.
• Quarterly magazine articles
• Develop trails and information on the churchyard as a whole, including work on its heritage.
• Extend information to include area adjacent e.g. the hedgerows and areas of interest around the village.
• Regularly record and monitor e.g. by means of phase 1 survey work.
• Use as an educational resource.
• Develop relationships with similarly minded parishes and continue to learn and exchange information.
In addition to implementing a regime sympathetic to the native flora, other measures have been undertaken to encourage wildlife. Linear wildlife corridors have been created and the use of herbicides is discouraged. Bird nesting boxes have been erected in several of the mature trees within the churchyard.
We carry out a differential mowing regime, there are 5 distinct areas within the churchyard, all are managed slightly differently. The wildlife area itself is managed as a 'Spring Meadow', the grass being cut after the wild flowers set their seed. The hay is left to dry and for the seeds to disperse. The hay is then collected and removed from the area to keep the soil fertility low.
This encourages the wild flowers which struggle to compete with the more vigorous grass species which prefer a more fertile soil. An area of grass around the edge remains as a wildlife corridor.
The plan opposite shows the layout of the churchyard.
There are 5 'types of areas' marked on it that represent the differing management regimes:
1. Areas with Spring bulbs left uncut until May/June.
2. Grass frequently close mown.
3. ‘Wildlife Area’ cut in June & late August/September. Developing as a 'Spring Meadow'
4. Mown path cut as required.
5. Areas proposed for single cut or left uncut.
The area reference codes e.g. 1A, 1B etc. are used to record the location of the churchyard flora.
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and The Diocese of York
'YORKSHIRE LIVING CHURCHYARD AWARDS 2003
Yorkshire Living Churchyard Award
The Diocese and Trust sponsored by npower run the ‘Living Churchyard Awards’. This award is for the churchyard/burial
ground managed most sympathetically for wildlife.
We entered the 2003 awards in the newcomer category,
and were declared joint winners together with
Diocese of Ripon and Leeds - Newcomer Category
ALL SAINTS, KIRBY-ON-THE-MOOR
Congratulations on the relaunch of your project, and the splendid and comprehensive presentation to show the work that you have been doing to improve the value to wildlife of the Churchyard. The grassland cutting regime seems excellent, and the bio-diversity of the award is illustrated by the presence of the uncommon Meadow Saxifrage. Your medium and long-term aims are commendable.
YORKSHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST
LIVING CHURCHYARD SEMINAR:
As part of the preparation for our entry in the awards scheme some of the Church and Churchyard group attended a Churchyard Management Seminar run by Yorkshire Wildlife trust. This was held at St. Peter's Church, Thorner Leeds on the 10th May 2003. The visit was informative and stimulating and we all learned a great deal from both the organised sessions and the conversation with like minded people following the presentations.
For more information on Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, click here
SPECIES OBSERVED/RECORDED IN AND AROUND THE CHURCHYARD
Recording of species commenced in May 2001, no records were kept in 2002 but visits to record flora in 2003 were undertaken in Spring and early Summer. These were done on an amateur basis and do not constitute a formal botanic survey, grasses have not been identified. We now have obtained a 'key' and are hoping to continue and expand our recording methods.
Regular observations have been maintained to note other wildlife such as mammals and birds. Insect species whilst noticed have not been formally recorded.
The Meadow Saxifrage (opposite) once only seen in areas where grass was left uncut because of the spring bulbs has now been seen in more that one location, the Pignut continues to do well and a number of species that have not been noticed previously have been recorded: Bugle, Common Vetch, Crosswort, Greater Stichwort, and Oxe Eye Daisy.
There are a number of grass species that remain to be identified.
In Spring 2004 the Meadow Saxifrage became well established in significant numbers, although this predominantly remains in the areas of flowering Spring Bulbs. The Lady's smock did less well in 2004 but this was thought to be due to a dry Spring.
The wildflowers are indicator species of ancient woodland:
Meadow Saxifrage ‘…found on grassland & hills;not very common’
Phillips, R. (1977) Wild Flowers of Britain, London, Pan Books Ltd.
'Meadow saxifrage and pignut two indicator species of ancient meadowland..'
Greenoak, F. (1989) A matter of life and death, The Times Educational Supplement 2/6/89
Click here to view the 'cumulative' results of the flora observed on the following dates:
19th May 2001, 11th May 2003, 31st May 2003 and 15th June 2003.
A number of mammals have been seen when the grass was cut and collected, these included: Bank vole, Common Shrew, Field Mouse and Field Vole.
Mole activity is noticeable together with a population of rabbits. A stoat has been seen crossing the road between the churchyard and hedgerow opposite, and bats can also be observed over the summer.
Many butterflies have been noticed in and around the churchyard in particular the ‘Brown’ species. Bees have made a nest in the Wildlife area, and for the first time dragonflies have been seen in the garden opposite the churchyard.
On the open day in May 2004 a mini-beast hunt took place led by Colin Slator accompanied by a number of children. Many 'bugs' were found including a rather large stag beetle which was the 'star' catch of the day. An ants nest in a memorial urn was also discovered together with as yet unrecorded creepy-crawlies amongst the log pile, and a good time was had by all!
Swallows nested in the porch, whilst the blue tits have been more innovative and taken advantage of the ancient wood of the Lychgate. Great tits have also made their home in the churchyard and other visitors or residents have included: Magpie, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Finches and Sparrows whilst evidence of Owl activity has been seen and heard.
During the 2004 open weekend a wren's nest was discovered with chicks in it, a nesting box was occupied by a Tree Sparrow and a Pied Wagtail was seen darting in and out of the Lychgate which it appeared to claim as its nesting site.
Barn Owl, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, House Martin, House Sparrow, Kestrel, Magpie, Pied Wagtail, Song Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Starling, Swallow, Swift, Tawny Owl, Tree Sparrow, White Throat, Wood Pigeon, Wren