Churches nature count to assess biodiversity within churchyards
Churches across London are signing up for a ‘nature count’ occurring this summer, which will encourage people to visit churchyards and record what they see. The Diocesan Head of Environment Challenge is encouraging more churches to take part in a week-long citizen science project.
Churches Count on Nature runs between 5-13 June 2021 and covers churchyards across England and Wales. It will see communities and visitors making a note of the animals, birds, insects, or fungi in their local churchyard, and the data will then be collated on the National Biodiversity Network.
The project jointly run by the conservation charities Caring for God’s Acre, A Rocha UK, the Church of England, and the Church in Wales, and is open to anyone with a love of nature and churches are being encouraged to link with local schools, local wildlife groups, and those who may not have visited before to discover churchyards.
It is thought church land, often uniquely unploughed and undeveloped, could be a habitat for precious and endangered plants and other wildlife. During Covid-19 restrictions, churchyards in the past year have offered a quiet space for communities, particularly in urban areas.
The Diocese’s Head of Environmental Challenge, Brian Cuthbertson, said:
“Together, our churchyards cover a significant area. There are 480 in the Diocese of London alone. Looking after them is a great opportunity to care for God’s Creation.
“One of the first things we see when entering many churchyards is the wildlife – the grass, the trees and much else. Even those which look hard and barren may be found to harbour lichens on walls and gravestones, when we look closer. In a town, insect and bird life may depend on flora in churchyards. Almost all our churchyards are sheltering bats; they rely on the churchyard for the insects to feed on.
“Yet wildlife – God’s Creation – is under threat wherever we look: we’ve all heard of the threat to bees. Fewer may know that sparrows have been decimated too. Swifts are suffering as their roosts are blocked up. Hedgehogs are suffering from the disruption to the seasons as the climate heats up.
“I strongly encourage churches to sign up to Churches Count on Nature. It is simple to join in and there is plenty of guidance for churches, organisers, and participants online.”
Churches Count on Nature will also see a series of webinars from leading conservationists, scientists, and experts. Topics include tree management, ecology and biology record management guidance, and outdoor worship support.
A similar national event Love Your Burial Ground Week will be combined with this project.
Registration for the webinars has already begun on the Church of England’s website and churches can register interest in the Churches Count on Nature online as well. Sign up for more information here.