Unploughed and unsprayed, churchyards provide important habitats for plant species, many of which have become scarce in the developed, and often intensively farmed, surrounding areas.
Wildlife group members surveyed our three local churches over the course of 2016. We visited each churchyard three times, in May, July and September, hoping that we would capture all of the early and late flowering species. The approach was straightforward, we simply walked around the churchyards, noting the different habitats – grassland, hedgerow, scrub, walls – and recording all the plants we saw in flower. We recorded trees and native and naturalised species but not any obviously planted species on graves. We also recorded any wildlife we spotted – including frogs at East Chiltington and All Saints. We found that All Saints had the highest number of different plants – 110 compared with 87 at East Chiltington, and 76 at St Michael’s.
A churchyard managed with sympathy for wildlife can be attractive to people, as well as being a haven for plants and animals. East Chiltington churchyard has been managed for conservation and biodiversity since early 2015. The old graveyard and the verge beneath the flint wall are not mown or strimmed until the end of summer, when plants have set seed. We recorded more plant species in 2016 than in a previous survey in 2010. Visit the churchyard in mid-summer – the long grass studded with white ox-eye daisies, yellow catsear, purple knapweed and humming with bees, it is indeed a place to ‘rest in peace’.
Text taken from Plumpton & East Chiltington Wildlife Group