Norfolk Wildlife Trust Churchyard Conservation Scheme

Author: Rebecca Evans

Published on: 12 June 2019

Norfolk was historically rich in lowland meadows and the beautiful and diverse displays of wildflowers that this ancient habitat supports.

This was at a time before agricultural intensification, with meadows being managed in traditional ways such as for grazing or hay cutting, allowing wildflowers to flourish. However, since the Second World War this low-intensity, sympathetic management has been replaced by widespread application of fertilisers, herbicides and large scale reseeding and ploughing up of meadowland. It is estimated that since 1945, 98 percent of our wildflower meadows once widespread in the countryside have now vanished.

Nowadays, churchyards often form the only remaining fragments of old wildlife-rich meadow in a parish, serving as island refuges for local wildlife, including birds, butterflies, bees, hedgehogs and slow-worms to name a few. There are six species of meadow plant that are now deemed dependent on churchyards for their survival in Norfolk and a number of churchyards even support orchid populations if allowed to survive the spring and summer months.

Recognising this, The Norfolk Wildlife Trust Churchyard Conservation Scheme was set-up over 30 years ago with the aim of encouraging and supporting churches to manage their churchyards with wildlife in mind so that they may continue to offer sanctuary in our ever fragmented and degraded landscapes.

Under the scheme, we have surveyed and given free advice to hundreds of churches in Norfolk. Each year a team of dedicated volunteer churchyard surveyors visit dozens of churchyards to survey them and identify the best areas for wildflowers and other wildlife. We then provide a report giving detailed results, along with some basic and clear advice on how parts of the churchyard could be managed for wildlife (such as establishing a Conservation Area), whilst ensuring the churchyard remains cared-for, accessible and able to perform its primary purpose, promoting the area as a place of refuge for both people and wildlife. If a church would like to manage a part (or in some cases all!) of their churchyard for wildlife, then they can become part of the scheme and display a Norfolk Wildlife Trust Churchyard Conservation Scheme plaque.

The service is free and more information can be found at:

If you would like to be added to the list of churchyards to be surveyed next year, receive an information pack or have any questions, please email or call 01603 625540.

The author...

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Rebecca Evans

Assistant Conservation Officer

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