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Event: Living Churchyards of the South Hams


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October 24, 2022

A well attended field trip saw attendees learning about the Living Churchyards Scheme and several projects from Greener East Allington.

More than 35 people came along to the Parish Hall in East Allington on Friday 14th October 2022 for this joint event from Sustainable South Hams and Greener East Allington (GEA).

The day began with a presentation from GEA’s Andrew Northrop, who introduced several of the group’s projects. They are taking part in the ‘Darwinian Square’ biodiversity project with the local primary school and plan to green communal spaces with avenues of wildflowers and new trees. They have also been greening part of St Andrew’s Churchyard as part of the ‘Living Churchyards’ initiative.

This initiative was discussed in more detail by David Curry from the Diocese of Exeter. He explained the rich natural history of churchyards (some will have remained virtually untouched for 800 years), which total in size across the UK to the equivalent of Dartmoor National Park!

Churchyards can contain some of the oldest yew trees in the country, over 40 different lichens, and important habitats for wildlife. These habitats can be supported by modifying grass cutting to create wildflower meadows, or groups can start small with microhabitats like fallen logs, dead leaves or mini meadows created from small patches of bare earth.

Finally, the group heard from Charlotte Rathbone of the Modbury Wildlife Action Group on their ongoing churchyard project, which involved creating a detailed plan of the churchyard to identify a small unused area. This was then surveyed by group members to discover which species were already present in order to decide the best steps going forward.

Following the talks, everyone moved to St Andrews Churchyard to get some hands-on understanding, using magnifying glasses to admire the lichens, inspecting the new bug hotel made out of pallets and learning more about the grass cutting regime.

The day offered some great ideas for group leaders looking to work on their own churchyard project. All of the speakers discussed the need to keep the local community and the church congregation engaged and informed, as churchyards can mean different things to different people!

Newsletters and information sheets are a great starting place, along with involving the community through local schools, Guides/Scout groups and the Churches Count on Nature citizen science scheme. Beyond simply informing, David highlighted the opportunities to work in partnership with the community through adding places to sit and gather, creating art or setting up your own Cherishing Churchyards event.

Find out more information, plus a set of resources and a talk video on our Project page.