Churchyard Conservation SchemeHedgehogs, Bush Crickets and King Alfred's Cake!
Did you know that Bishop Donald is Patron of our diocesan Churchyard Conservation Scheme? He has been encouraging all the churches in the diocese to develop management of churchyards for the conservation of wildlife, balancing this with the peace and beauty which churchyards provide. Caring for God's creation is an important part of our calling as Christians.
A variety of wildlife is a sign of a healthy environment for us to live in, and churchyards have a significant role to play in this, particularly as they usually have unimproved grassland (ie free from ploughing, fertilisers and chemicals). With some grateful help, we have produced an impressive (but by no means exhaustive) list of the wildlife found in our own churchyard, and this is found in Records. It includes some interesting and more unusual species that tend to be overlooked, such as lichens, plant galls and King Alfred's Cake (a fungus). There are various insects, plants and animals, including Speckled Bush Crickets, a hedgehog and a roosting kestrel. A visitor from Sussex who was looking round our church was especially interested to hear about the treecreeper we had spotted. We aim to produce further periodic counts as time goes by. It will be interesting to see if we can increase the health of our environment, hopefully with the help of just a few simple changes! We have already put up a bird feeder and a nestbox!
Here are some things you can do in your patch:
- Build a compost heap, for reptiles and small mammals.
- Plant hedges, trees, herbs, providing cover and food for birds/mammals.
- Provide bird, bat and insect boxes, plus log piles.
- Leave small plants and lichens on walls/monuments.
- Remove grass cuttings from mown areas to encourage wild flowers.
- Make a 5inch hole so hedgehogs can access your garden.
Happy wildlife watching! (Now check out our Records!)
Well, it's now a year since we began work on the Bishop's scheme in the Cottesmore churchyard with rather a mixed-bag in terms of success. The grasses and flowers shot up after the very wet March and April so that the council could hardly keep pace, but then you know about the long hot dry days of June and July! Everything went to seed very quickly and dried. All the edges that had been allowed to flower and produce seeds have now been cut and removed (traditionally done, from a wildlife perspective, at the end of July/early August), so that brings us to the end of another season. It is important to remove as much as possible after mowing, in order to develop a mixed flora next season. 27 species of birds have been seen in or from the churchyard this year, bringing the total to 29, and we had a fox and cubs - actually this refers to the orange flowering plant, not the mammal! A holly blue butterfly was seen for the first time. Its caterpillars feed on holly and ivy, so this species has fared much better than some other butterflies, whose food plants had dried up and gone over. We had a nesting Dunnock, but sadly little use of the feeder - we know that Blue Tits, Great Tits, Sparrows and Woodpeckers are attracted to them in this area, though it can take time.
So we press on. If you want to know what can be accomplished, well, the Bishop would be very impressed with Whissendine churchyard! Take a look sometime.