St James Churchyard
There are approximately 20,000 churches and chapels in England each with an average of at least one acre of land. Most of these have never been treated with any form of chemicals. They are quiet and peaceful places and represent very important areas, not only for the local population but also for a wide variety of wildlife, many of which are in rapid decline.
In 1987 what is now Natural England set up the Churchyard and Conservation Plan. The aim was to record and study the habitats of the churchyards throughout the country and improve them if possible. In 2003 the St. James’s Churchyard became part of the Plan.
The PCC agreed that the management of six areas of the churchyard, which were not actively used, could be altered. Mowing schedules were reduced and the new regime was monitored. The fertility of the soil is very high and susceptible to being overtaken by rank weeds, such as hogweed, cow parsley and nettles. Most wild flowers, however, thrive on land of low fertility. A management plan is in place to reduce the fertility by sowing yellow rattle: this is semi parasitic to grasses and should help more flowers to become established.Limited removal of top soil and planting wild flower seed, hand weeding and cutting back more rampant weeds has been part of this continuing plan.
Bird and butterfly populations have remained stable. The village scouts and cubs made and installed four nesting boxes which have been occupied regularly by blue titsand, in 2010 surprisingly by a solitary nest of tree bees (BombusHypnorum). Bats roost in churchyardin summer, but have not been identified as yet, and we haven’t found out where the bats go to in winter.
This has been an interesting and informative project which will continue for some time.