How wild is your churchyard?
Manage, don't mow your churchyard and give space to endangered plant species. That is the message from the CofE's national environmental campaign Shrinking the Footprint which has signed up to the United Nations' International Year of Biodiversity (IYB).
The CofE is one of 300 UK partners who have joined the global campaign involving almost 1000 organisations celebrating "the variety of life on Earth ….essential for sustaining the natural living systems or ecosystems that provide us with food, fuel, health, wealth, and other vital services."
An estimated two thirds of the CofE's 16,000 churches (around 10,000) have churchyards which collectively cover the area of a small National Park. Around 6,000 of these are already contributing to the biodiversity of the country - both in rural and urban areas -while remaining respectful to its users particularly family and friends of those buried there.
David Shreeve the CofE's National Environment Adviser said: "Churchyards can be a vital biodiversity resource often containing a variety of wildlife which are unique to the area and many manage their land in such a way to celebrate the diversity of life. Whilst there are areas needing to be mown, many churchyards can also be managed to provide excellent wildlife areas. Advice is available from many local wildlife trusts and nationally from Caring for God's Acre."
In St Albans diocese, St Peter & St Paul with St Andrew Flitwick Bedfordshire has recorded more than 100 species of wildflowers in the churchyard. All Saints, Odell also in Bedfordshire has won an award from the Campaign to Protect Rural England as an example of what churchyards can do with its community-led conservation project, including 'adopt a grave'.
St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London diocese has a dedicated section to its churchyard called the Fulham Fields wildlife garden where most of the hardware, including material for the "wildlife tower", and the herbaceous plants, have been either donated or found locally.
Judith Evans promoter of the Living Churchyard scheme for St Albans said: "Churchyards are a precious resource which can make a huge contribution to the biodiversity of the country and at the same time engage and educate the wider community. They often support species of plants and animals which have disappeared from the surrounding area, or are capable of so doing. Many churches in the diocese and nationally are managing their churchyards in an environmentally-friendly way, often with the help of their local wildlife trusts, but they are still in the minority. In the International Year of Biodiversity we hope to make them the majority to demonstrate that the church really cares about God's creation."
Notes to editors
UK's International Year of Biodiversity http://www.biodiversityislife.net/
The Church of England's national environmental campaign www.shrinkingthefootprint.org
Cherishing Churchyard's Week, Friday 18th June - Sunday 27th June 2010 http://www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk/
Further info on Fulham fields wildlife garden