Managing churchyards for wildlife – Do’s and Don’ts
The do's and don'ts for managing churchyards for wildlife
- Leave areas of the oldest graves uncut from April until end July/early August. Then cut and REMOVE the grass cuttings. Repeat in October if resources allow. This will allow any meadow plants in the seedbank to grow, flower and set-seed. Sometimes species can come up that have been dormant for decades.
- Leave a strip of vegetation along one side uncut until October each year. This strip can act as a refuge and food source for a range of invertebrates, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
- Leave a few holes in walls or fences, as well as any ‘untidy corners’. It will allow access to and from the churchyard, as well as refuge/hibernation opportunities for hedgehogs.
- Pile any dead wood/branches into an undisturbed corner. An often overlooked habitat that supports a huge array on invertebrates.
- Put up bird and bat boxes in churchyard trees to provide a safe nesting /roosting.
- Keep grass paths and areas of tended graves mown regularly. Mow a neat edge to gravel paths and any conservation areas. It will maintain access, neatness and signals intentionality rather than neglect.
- Put up signs telling visitors why an area is being left. This will raise awareness of the importance of the churchyard for local wildlife and encourage visitors.
- Spray herbicides and pesticides. It may kill native wild flora and/or pollinators and invertebrates that are food e.g. for hedgehogs.
- Scrub tombstones to remove lichen. Churchyards are a haven for lichen in Norfolk, due to the lack of natural rocky outcrops.
- Remove ferns and other stonework plants from walls. Again these are a refuge to these plants, some of which almost their entire populations are confined to churchyards in Norfolk.
- Cut trees and hedges every year, and especially not during the bird breeding season (March – August). Hedgerows support numerous species of invertebrate, small mammal and bird amongst other groups. They provide shelter, food and a safe place to nest. Try to cut only every three years.
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