Heritage in the Community – The Living Churchyard

The Living Churchyard

There are 3 types of listed building in the UK; Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II, with a rough total of around 500,000. From the green-space that surrounds, to the brick and mortar composing, these buildings in fact play a more significant role in terms of local biodiversity and wildlife than first understood.Headstone

At first glance, a Churchyard is merely just a piece of land which surrounds a Church, often overgrown and rather eerie looking. Given a different status to the common ‘back-garden’ because of the ‘burial grounds’ history attached, a closer look into these curtilages reveals that these often ancient spaces are host to an abundance of wildlife not so dissimilar to our common back garden.

Christ Church, Pellon. Image credit – Mark Anderson

Most wildlife causes no damage to Historic sites and for some of us can be an added attraction! If you were to take a short wonder around one these many characterful sites, you may expect to lay your eyes on; bats, an array of bird, squirrels, insects, reptiles and amphibians. Not to mention the vegetation on the walls, flora and fauna.

This Ivy-leaved toadflax’s scientific name is Cymbalaria muralis. Its species name ‘muralis’ means ‘of a wall’. Image credit – https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4756466

The abundant flora in churchyards and cemeteries is, in part, explained by the cultivation of certain species such as snowdrop and primrose (interestingly the choice of memorial plant for children’s graves in Victorian times.)

Snowdrops are busy here marking the first signs of Spring. Image credit – https://www.nationalchurchestrust.org/node/6565

In an increasingly ecology stagnant Britain you will find that a number of regions are setting up projects within Churchyards in order to support those little creatures whom seek refuge amongst the dead. It is hard to imagine that a space so insignificant to us as humans can appear to make up the whole world for a family of little critters.

British Mammals
Spot the Rabbit.

So, next time you come across the opportunity to wonder around an old church-yard, take it. Go for a stroll, read stories of the bereaved on ancient headstones, but be careful – someone else too might be watching!




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