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Living Churchyards updated with links

November 11, 2010:

See ARC's Living Churchyards resources page that contains most of what you need to know to begin making your churchyard a living one.



To enhance wildlife and its habitat in churchyards and burial grounds through conservation management. To create an atmosphere of benefit to grieving visitors, to encourage educational use of churchyards and burial grounds. To aid understanding of our natural and cultural heritage and its importance in God's creation. To enhance the amenity value of churchyards and burial grounds - Kensington Palace, May 1989

Faith and Form's Fall 2010 issue features an article, Lay of the Land, giving an overview of schemes established by various religious communities that integrate the worship experience with nature. Buildings designed to exclude urban chaos and direct worshippers to their environment - both physically and spiritually - are beautifully photographed across large page spreads. The article covers the UK-based Living Churchyard Programme, acknowledging current sites and how they strive to promote nature, not control it.

Examples:

Dorset

In Dorset we find an inspiring example of different Christian communities all working towards making their churchyards into wildlife havens. The Dorset Wildlife Trust has been running the scheme, linked to the national Living Churchyards and Cemeteries project, since 1996, and it is still very much alive today. They even run a competition between the Living Churchyards in the area:

"This year we have again had 32 churchyards taking part in the competition and the judges are currently out and about meeting up with them and seeing the work they have been putting in during the year.

"We have had 7 entries into the “Newcomer” category of which 3 are absolutely new to the competition this year, as well as a number of new enquiries from churchyards hoping to start next year, so I think that the project is certainly still thriving in Dorset. We have also had several enquiries from people who would like to get their local church involved in neighbouring counties, particularly Somerset and Hampshire."
- Sharron Abbott, Dorset Wildlife Trust

Gwent

In 2010 Gwent Wildlife Trust undersent a three-year project, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, CCW, Wye Valley AONB and Gwent’s Local Authorities. The funds meant the project could appoint a part time Living Churchyards Project Officer.

"Often, people are unaware just how valuable their churchyards are for wildlife, or the variety of wildflowers that sometimes hide below a tightly mown lawn. To help change this, the project has been supporting training days and events to invite local people to learn more about their local living churchyard," said Living Churchyards Project Officer for Gwent, Rebecca Price.

A very wet hay day at Monmouth cemetery. Photo: D McCarty
Ideas for your own Living Churchyards Project

The important thing is to manage your own churchyard ecologically, see links below to resources.

The second important thing is to tell people about it. And help them know more

Events at other churchyards round the country have included:
* hay days,
* opportunities to try hedgerow planting and dry-stone walling,
* sessions on bats, fungi, lichens and yews.
* training days on veteran yew trees, churchyard archaeology and how to map gravestones,
* opportunities to visit other established local churchyard projects to gain inspiration.
* recording wildlife, including voles, shrews ie baseline wildlife surveys
* identifying appropriate areas for trial wildflower meadow areas,
* creating reptile refuges,
* building bird and bat boxes
* owl watching (and listening)
* building compost bins
* creating a noticeboard to explain Our Living Churchyard in the porch (so people can see it if the church is closed * school groups/Sunday school groups "Churchyards are first and foremost places of tranquility, where people go to remember loved ones. Balancing the needs and expectations of visitors, with the needs of wildlife can sometimes be a challenge, but when achieved can have immense rewards for both. After all, who can fail to enjoy the spring spectacle of a host of golden daffodils (native ones of course!) or bats emerging from their roost on a warm summer evening?" - Wildlife Projects Officer, Gwent Wildlife Trust, 2010

Background information

Living Churchyards is a programme that ARC was involved with setting up in the 1990s. The vision was of churchyards throughout the UK - and overseas if possible - becoming places where wildlife could thrive, and wildflowers could grow.

Now more than 6,000 British churchyards run their small plots of land as sacred eco-systems. They are managed without pesticides, and by mowing the grass only once a year it ensures that birds, reptiles, insects and bats can thrive.

Orchids and cowslips. Photo: R Price
Today Living Churchyards is more of an idea and a movement than a centralised project. It is an ideal to work towards and it has captured the hearts of Christian communities - as well as more secular but ecologically-inclined members of communities throughout the UK.

If you are thinking of making your churchyard a "living one", then here is an excellent resources page provided by Caring for God's Acre, which should be the first stop for all Living Churchyard advice and information. It includes practical ideas for caring for church grounds and lands - including how to create homes for hedgehogs, plant trees for special events, create bird boxes, and conduct woodland burials.

Links:

ARC's Living Churchyards resources page that contains most of what you need to know to begin making your churchyard a living one.

Eco Congregation - A Rocha UK is an ecumenical programme helping churches make the link between environmental issues and Christian faith, and respond in practical action in the church, in the lives of individuals, and in the local and global community.

Living Churchyard resource page for advice and a working pack.

Click here for the Church of England's environmental campaign "Shrinking the Footprint" which supports Living Churchyards and is proud of it.

Caring for God's Acre is a programme whose aim is to inspire and support local communities to care for churchyards and burial grounds in a way which benefits both people and wildlife.



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