• Susie Culhane

St Swithun’s Churchyard - update

Updated: Sep 30

Following our April post on Managing St Swithun's Churchyard for biodiversity, here is an update on the project.

Sign on St Swithun's Lych gate (S Culhane, June 2020)

Figure 1: Image of Leucanthemum vulgare (Ox-eye daisy) in flower in St Swithun’s Churchyard taken during one of the plant surveys in May (Lewis, 2020)


Our intention for St Swithun’s Churchyard in 2020 was to leave some areas for wild flowers and wildlife to flourish. The remaining areas of grass were to be maintained at a lower height for access to the church and gravestones. Once the wildflowers and grasses had finished flowering, this plant material would then be cut and either composted on site (if feasible) or removed as green waste.

Then the Coronavirus pandemic took hold and the lockdown was enforced. Like many professions, in the interests of public health, no work was undertaken by the landscape maintenance contractors.

Now in June, the process of managing this unchecked growth begins. Contractors cut the excess growth on pathways and on the west side of the churchyard with strimmers. Unfortunately, this grass has been left on the surface (Figure 2) and while it’s great to see the pathways again and begin to restore some order to the churchyard, we now have the challenge of removing the cut material to ensure it is safe and accessible for everyone. Many parishioners have family members buried in the churchyard and it is important their resting places can be found easily.


For biodiversity, If grass is left on the surface, the higher nutrient levels in the soil will mean more vigorous grasses and fewer wildflowers next year, so it is in everyone’s interest for the cut grass to be removed. We have received offers of help from members of the community which is very much appreciated. if you are able to offer some time clearing up the grass please either contact Andy Lewis on 07764597049 or by email dandroo6@gmail.com.


Figure 2: First cut since the pandemic enforced lockdown in the churchyard in June 2020 (Lewis, 2020)


Encouraging Survey results

During the sunniest calendar month on record (Met Office, 2020) volunteer horticulturists and ecologists surveyed the churchyard over a three week period in May (Figure 1). The team recorded 85 plant species which have been uploaded to iRecord, an online database for managing and sharing wildlife records. The survey results are very encouraging and it is difficult to imagine an opportunity to gather this data outside of the Coronavirus pandemic. This data will now be used to inform the management of the churchyard for biodiversity, together with input from the community.

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust working in collaboration with The Church of England and East of England Coop. summarise the management of churchyards beautifully:

“The main purpose of churchyards isn’t wildlife conservation. Churchyards that are havens for wildlife can also have the desired tidy, cared and loved for appearance wanted by most. The two purposes can be brought together to create a beautiful place for people to rest and reflect. Areas where wildflowers are left to flourish are great places for bees and butterflies to thrive, but also add beauty for all to enjoy.”

Andy Lewis, MHort

Instagram @andy.d.lewis


References

iRecord. 2020. Irecord. [online] Available at: https://www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/

[Accessed 27 June 2020].

Met Office. 2020. May 2020 Becomes The Sunniest Calendar Month On Record. [online] Available at:

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2020/2020-spring-and-may-stats

[Accessed 27 June 2020].

n.d. Churchyards For Wildlife. [pdf] Available at:

https://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/documents/churchyard/churchyards-for-wildlife-leaflet-(website)

[Accessed 27 June 2020].

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