Churchyards for London
This page is about how churches in the Diocese can look after our churchyards, and introduces our long-term Churchyards for London programme.
See also Wildlife, ecology and biodiversity.
There are almost 480 churchyards in the Diocese of London (about the same number as churches, but some churchyards are detached from any church, and some churches do not have churchyards).
Churchyards include graveyards, and any significant curtilage around a church. They also include numerous gardens. Many are managed by local authorities like small parks.
Churchyards for London
In partnership with the Dioceses of Southwark, Chelmsford and Rochester, the Diocese of London is running a project to survey the fauna and flora, habitats and ecology of churchyards across Greater London.
This survey is called ‘Churchyards Ecology Survey’, and is Phase A of a longer term project under the banner ‘Churchyards for London’.
AECOM Infrastructure and Environment UK Ltd are the appointed ecologists to the project.
A scoping study of all 998 churchyards and church gardens across Greater London has been undertaken. Of these, 556 are of non-negligible size and have some green space or trees. This work was followed by detailed desk study work, and a series of visits (see below). More of all this work remains to be completed.
Phase B, projected to follow our Churchyards Ecology Survey, is to include three themes:
- Churchyards for communities
- Churchyards and heritage
- Churchyards for biodiversity.
After research which was generously supported free of charge by the London Records Centre, Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL), an initial sample of 50 sites was selected for more detailed study. This sample has now been expanded to 90 churchyards, from all round Greater London.
Fifteen churchyard sites were visited in 2013, 10 more were visited in 2014, then 6 more in 2015 – 31 sites visited so far.
Specialist surveys of birds and bats have also been undertaken, by Dr Alison Fairbrass of University College London, with bird IDs by Andy Lester of A Rocha UK.
Lichens have been surveyed by Ishpi Blatchley of the British Lichen Society.
Already we have learned that:
- London churchyards add up to an estimated area of some 270 Ha, or 1/6th of 1% of the land area of Greater London.
- The most obvious feature of churchyards is the number and density of trees. This richness of trees may be similar to surrounding properties. In other areas, churchyards are densely populated with trees while their surroundings seem barren. This bodes well for the capacity of churchyards to act as refugia and stepping stone habitats.
- The ecological potential of these sites appears disproportionate to their size, after considering their distributed locations and connectivity with other green spaces.
- The range of species observed within a 0.5 km radius of just 50 sites bears witness to this – more than 200 significant species on GiGL’s database; and no fewer than 114 designated sites within a short distance.
- A total of 272 species of higher plants were recorded in the first 15 churchyards visited. This excludes an exceptionally rich catalogue of lichens, and animal species which include at least seven species of bats!
Further analysis of information gained is being collated.
Interim reports have been made to parishes following visits from 2013 to 2015.
A major report is then planned on the whole project.
Funding is being sought for remaining work. £60K is the target for the surveys and reports.
Works affecting trees in churchyards are permissible depending on which of two lists they come under.
- Under the first list, including various minor works, no permission will be needed.
- If slightly less minor, tree works may come under a second list, for which permission is required from your Archdeacon.
Guidance from the Church Buildings Council should be followed. The Diocesan Advisory Committee should be consulted. Contact the Parish Property Support Team.
Major works involving trees in any churchyard will still require faculty permission, same as other works to a church or churchyard. See Faculties, changes and repairs.
See also Trees in Churchyards and Churchyards and Wildlife.
Beauty in Tranquillity
In July 2015, a major conference on our churchyards took place in St John’s Wood Church. This was organised in partnership with the national charity Caring for God’s Acre.
Presentations from the day may be downloaded from this page, below.