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
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.
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.
Try not to use artificial fertilisers, insecticides, herbicides and other chemicals.
Wingrave Churchyard showing different grass lengths
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 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):
Burghfield, St Mary
Cookham, Holy Trinity
Grazeley, Holy Trinity
Stratfield Mortimer, St Mary
Streatley, St Mary
Tilehurst, St Michael
Upper Woolhampton (new 2016)
Wargrave, St Mary
Aston Abbotts, St James
Bierton, St James
Buckland, All Saints
Cheddington, St Giles
Colnbrook, St Thomas
Cublington, St Nicholas
Denham, St Mary
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
None at present
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
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.
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.