29 May 2010

Living Churchyards

Updated 8th June 2010

At the Parish Plan morning in Whiteshill last month I learnt more about a national project to create 'Living Churchyards.' I have written on this blog about the threats to our wildlife from a whole range of factors like industrial farming practices, the relentless growth of urban developments and more - see most recently my blog on International Biodiversity Day here. Well here is a project that is trying to create more oasis of wildlife....

Photos: St Pauls Churchyard, Whiteshill - what a wonderful place of wildlife and beauty - so many cowslips and orchids on their way...

Churchyards have become in some ares the only protected eco-systems where remnants of the local flora and fauna can survive. The ‘Living Churchyards’ project has been described as not so much a vision of the dead rising up as the dead providing sanctuary for species whose living space had been cut back.

I understand 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. In Stroud for example there is a particular scheme with the Global Bee Project to protect an earth bank where solitary bees regularly nest.

I was interested to hear that some local people were looking at how we can enhance still further our local churchyards. Already St Pauls in Whiteshill do a great job but what else could be done? We recently had a meeting of the new allotment association and we had Jessie Jowers from the Global Bee Project share some of her enthusiasm about solitary bees - well I am sure we could do lots more in our churchyards. I am hoping that perhaps the Parish Plan work might lead to a local group that can take forward such ideas - already living in our valley we have a surprisingly huge number of wildlife experts.....but it isn't always the experts we need! Anyone interested do get in touch with me....

See also my previous blogs regarding yew trees in churchyards - in particular the fantastic Portbury Yew here. I also learnt here that a project in 1999 took cuttings from Yew trees that were alive at the time of Christ and planted them for the new Millennium - more than 8,000 were distributed to churches!

Another interesting site with info is Caring for God's Acre which works primarily in Herefordshire, but can provide information that is relevant to locations throughout the UK. Lastly an article here by David manning on living churchyards.

Updated 8th June 2010

I have just heard from The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) who picked up my link above to their website - here is their comment: "Many people come to our website (www.arcworld.org) after having searched the web for the term “Living Churchyards”, probably because our website is one of the first that appears on Google when this phrase is typed. However the information we have is not as up-to-date as we would like it to be, and does not as yet include links to all of the wonderful activities already being done under the Living Churchyards umbrella. It is a project that ARC is very fond of and that we have supported in the past. We would now like to support it further by creating on our website a brand new page on Living Churchyards that will act as a platform for those seeking to know more; as a hub of information/ contact details/ stories/ links and resources for those who wish to get involved or learn more. To give an example of one enquiry, I recently received a phone call from a photographer asking for a list of Living Churchyards within the UK, so that he could visit them and take photos for a project he was doing. I could not provide him with a detailed answer, and would like to know if such an inventory does exist, and if so where can it be found? If you have any relevant information about Living Churchyards in general and/or more specifically in your area, I would be very grateful if you could contact ARC, so that the new ARC web page can be filled with useful information for those seeking to get inspired by this wonderful project."

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