Churchyards

St John's - Stone (© Michael Pitt-Payne)
St John's - Stone (© Michael Pitt-Payne)

The amount of land around a Church can vary from a concrete yard to an extensive churchyard which, in many cases, will once have been part of a species-rich ancient pasture or meadowland. A churchyard should, of course, be a pleasant, reflective place for its congregation and visitors but there's no reason why it shouldn't also be a valuable ecological habitat - a haven for grasses, wildflowers, trees, birds, butterflies, moths and other wild creatures.

UTB runs an annual Churchyard Butterfly Survey and several of our surveyors have been working with church wardens for a number of years to create a working churchyard management plan and this is being rewarded by an increased number of butterfly species recorded there.

Emma Turnbull took over the role of Churchyard Recording Co-ordinator in 2017 and will be organising the team of surveyors and writing reports of the annual survey results. If you feel you could spare some time to assist with one or more surveys please contact Emma.

You don't need to be a UTB member to join the survey team but we hope that, once you've found out more about what we do, you will want to join Butterfly Conservation!


Churchyard Management Plan

The following are some basic guidelines for churchyard management, designed to be sensitive towards the needs of both people and wildlife. With the churchwarden's approval, the Churchyard Management Plan could be displayed in the Church, maybe with a few photos, to show that the churchyard is a beautiful place to visit as well as being beneficial to wildlife.

Grass Cutting

All grass cuttings should be removed - delicate flowering plants can be smothered by grass cuttings and they also encourage stronger growing plants at the expense of wild flowers.

Paths and other well-used areas probably need to be mown as often as a lawn.

Grass around infrequently visited gravestones can be cut less often, to a height of about 3 inches (7cm). If possible, do not mow these areas from May to mid-July, to allow a good variety of plants to flower and set seed.

Mown paths through longer areas of grass will guide visitors through the "wildlife areas" and show them that it is part of a properly managed churchyard.

Rarely visited areas could be mown once a year in late September to allow a good variety of plants to grow. Longer areas of grass will be used by breeding 'Brown' butterflies, numerous moths and other creatures and the flowering plants within the grass by many more, making these areas the most productive part of a wildlife churchyard.

Chemicals

Try not to use artificial fertilisers, insecticides, herbicides and other chemicals.

Wingrave Churchyard showing different grass lengths

Ivy

Ivy should be left untrimmed where possible. It is one of the main foodplants of the Holly Blue (along with holly). It provides bird nesting sites during March to July and is a late nectar source for butterflies in late summer and autumn.

Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles in a sunny position could act as the foodplant for Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady or Red Admiral and many moth species.

Planting New Trees

Ideally these should be native trees and planted where they will not shade out wildflower areas in years to come.

 


List of Churchyards Surveyed

The following is a list of the 67 Churchyards currently being surveyed (as at March 2017):

Berkshire Buckinghamshire Oxfordshire

Burghfield, St Mary
Cookham, Holy Trinity
Easthampstead, Bracknell
Grazeley, Holy Trinity
Padworth
Stratfield Mortimer, St Mary
Streatley, St Mary
Sulhamstead Abbots
Tilehurst, St Michael
Upper Woolhampton (new 2016)
Wargrave cemetery
Wargrave, St Mary
(12)

Aston Abbotts, St James
Bierton, St James
Buckland, All Saints
Cheddington, St Giles
Colnbrook, St Thomas
Cublington, St Nicholas
Denham, St Mary
Drayton Beauchamp
Dunton, St Martin
East Claydon, St Mary
Ellesborough, SS Peter & Paul
Halton, St Michael
Hardwick, St Mary
Hartwell, St Mary
Hedgerley, St Mary the Virgin
Hulcott, All Saints
Iver, St Peter
Middle Claydon, All Saints
Monks Risborough cemetery
Pitstone, St Mary
Stewkley, St Michael
Stoke Mandeville, St Mary
Stoke Poges, St Giles
Stone, St John
Wendover, St Mary
Weston Turville, St Mary
Whitchurch, St John Evangelist
Wing, All Saints
Wingrave, SS Peter & Paul
(29)

Milton Keynes
None at present
Volunteers welcome!

Benson, St Helen
Binsey, St Margaret (new 2016)
Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, St Agatha
Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, St James
Checkendon, SS Peter & Paul (new 2016)
Cholsey, St Mary
Crowmarsh Gifford, St Mary Magd.
Dry Sandford, St Helen
Garsington, St Mary
Goring, St Thomas
Henley, Holy Trinity
Moulsford, St John the Baptist
Newnham Murren, St Mary
North Hinksey, St Lawrence (new 2016)
North Stoke, St Mary
Oxford, St Frideswide (new 2016)
Oxford, St Peter Upper Wolvercote (new 2016)
Oxford, SS Mary & John
Oxford, St Mary Iffley
South Hinksey, St Lawrence (new 2016)
Stanford in the Vale, St Denys
Sunningwell, St Leonard
Wallingford, Memorial Chapels
Wallingford, St Leonard
Whitchurch Hill, St John the Baptist
Wootton, St Peter
(26)

How You Can Help

Is your churchyard good for wildlife? Could you visit it on 4 occasions during the year to record the butterflies you see? Would your local school like to look for butterflies in the churchyard? If so, Emma would love to hear from you, especially if you live in West Berkshire, South Bucks, North Oxfordshire or West Oxfordshire.

Downloadable documents

  • Download the Churchyard Management Plan
  • The new Churchyard recording spreadsheet is now available for download. If you prefer to send records in on paper, a PDF is also available.