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There are over 20,000 churchyards in the country – a sizeable area of land which has survived untouched by agriculture or development.  Churchyards are such special places reflecting family histories, historical interests, and often untouched for hundreds of years.  Some of the old fashioned churchyards are the most hospitable to wildlife and, in truth, to many of their human visitors too.

The churchyard may be a quiet place for reflection, a burial ground and a home and shelter for a wide range of animals and plants.  It is a real shame when churchyards are made over tidy and mown as a bowling green.

The mowers are out in force this month but it would be good if more of our churchyards managed their mowing regime to encourage the cowslips and primroses in the spring and other summer wildflowers. 

Some parts can be cut regularly until later in the summer to control the grasses, and the yellow rattle can be introduced to compete with the vigorous grasses.  It doesn’t have to be untidy – indeed ‘visited’ areas of graves should be closely mown along with access paths.

Perhaps leave strategic nettle banks in a sunny spot to encourage tortoiseshell and red admiral butterfly caterpillars or put up some nest boxes?  There are often unkempt kerbed graves where a thyme bank can be created for the butterflies or sow some wild flower seeds.

If you would like advice, please contact the Wildlife Trust BCN – they run a Churchyard Conservation Award Scheme with Awards for sensitive churchyard management.

Stoke Doyle – St Rumbald’s Churchyard At Stoke Doyle, careful management and great care, allows a special flora to flourish, almost unique in that part of the Nene Valley.   The flowers include burnet saxifrage, spiny restharrow and hoary plantain.  More recently, a pyramidal orchid has emerged.

Stoke Doyle has an Open Afternoon on Sunday 29th July with trails and bug hunts as well as tea and cake in the church!

Our Churchyards – ‘God’s Acre’