AMID the global crisis, early signs indicate that the environment, at least, is benefiting: emissions and pollution are falling. Before our lives were changed, our church signed up to Eco Church, an A Rocha UK initiative that helps us to become greener. Church grounds often contain important habitats, and churchyards are increasingly important to Britain’s wild flora and fauna.
Around our church, the soil between graves has been left undisturbed for many years. In the past, sheep grazed the grass and this will have helped to prevent coarse grasses’ swamping wild flowers. The church grounds have never been enriched with artificial fertilisers, and it is the current policy not to use weedkillers, which further encourages biodiversity. The PCC is formalising the existing mowing regime to suit people and wildlife.
Longer areas of grass allow wild plants to reach flowering point, and this, in turn, benefits pollinating insects. To encourage parishioners, we are planning an Eco Sunday, starting with a short country ramble for the able-bodied followed by an environmentally themed service. In the afternoon, we hope to attract non-churchgoers to wildlife spotting, meditation, and, of course, tea and cake in the church grounds.
We have turned to the project Caring for God’s Acre for help. It runs training sessions in wildlife identification and recording in England and Wales, besides publishing “in the field” guide materials. We will add the species list generated by our Eco-Sunday to the National Biodiversity Network Database, to build further the nationwide picture of biodiversity linked with places of worship.
The Eco Church initiative covers all aspects of a church’s life, not just any land that it is responsible for, and flowers in church have come under scrutiny. Floral foam is a non-biodegradable and currently non-recyclable plastic. The Royal Horticultural Society is phasing it out from its shows and encouraging exhibitors to trial other methods of supporting flowers. The floral decorator and author Simon Lycett recalls his childhood when, as a budding florist, he could rarely afford to buy blocks of green foam. He found that small vases and vessels could be used au naturel, and that “scrunched-up balls of chicken wire and lethal-looking miniature beds of nails” were ideal supports for many styles of decoration. The old techniques are being rediscovered. Pin-holders, which, I learnt recently, go by the delightful name of “flower frogs”, are available from florists. Chicken wire (two-inch mesh) is sold by many hardware shops, as well as online.
Lycett also steers “clients to explore and exploit the seasonal British grown foliage and flowers”. He supports Flowers From the Farm, a co-operative of small independent flower farmer/growers (www.flowersfromthefarm.co.uk).