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Volunteers take part in week-long ‘nature count’ of wildlife in churchyards

11 June 2021

Caring for God’s Acre

A volunteer, Vicky Barnes, surveys the churchyard of St Laurence’s, Church Stretton, in Shropshire

A volunteer, Vicky Barnes, surveys the churchyard of St Laurence’s, Church Stretton, in Shropshire

HUNDREDS of people are taking part in a week-long “nature count” of wildlife in English and Welsh churchyards.

The event, Churches Count on Nature (News, 23 April), which ends on Sunday, encourages communities to visit churchyards in their area and note the animals, birds, insects, or fungi that they see there. The data are to be collated on the National Biodiversity Network.

The project is being run jointly by the conservation charities Caring for God’s Acre and A Rocha UK, in partnership with the Church of England and the Church in Wales.

John Cairns PhotographyChurchgoers at St Richard’s, Ham, an Eco Church in Southwark diocese, build a bug hotel to count insects in their churchyard

A Rocha UK’s conservation director, Andy Lester, explained on Tuesday: “Nature is in rapid decline across the UK, with many species and habitats in trouble. Some familiar species such as cuckoo, spotted flycatcher, and a range of bee, butterfly, and amphibians are no longer frequent visitors to church grounds.

“Churches Count On Nature will help paint a picture of what species still occur around churches . . . [and] how best to encourage nature’s recovery. It is not too late, and we have not lost hope. As a faith community, we believe it is possible to create new space for nature that will make it more resilient to the impacts of climate change and habitat loss.”

Besides promoting and encouraging churchyard conservation, the aim is to create links with schools and wildlife groups, and to invite people who might never have been in a churchyard to appreciate the quiet space that they offer, especially in urban areas.

The Assistant Curate of Whalley Range and Moss Side, in Manchester diocese, the Revd Grace Thomas, said that, while there was only a little greenery in the built-up area, “we decided to take part, to encourage local people to spend time in the church grounds, which they are all welcome to do, and to celebrate the green spaces we have even in an urban context.”

The community already had several environmental groups, she said, and the various lockdowns had increased appreciation for parks and open spaces. “People in the area are really interested in creating and maintaining good green spaces.”

The Priest-in-Charge of St Pol de Léon, Paul, in Cornwall, the Revd Andrew Yates, is due to hold the morning service on Sunday outside in the “Celtic Quiet Garden” which overlooks Mounts Bay. On this site, a Welsh saint, Paul Aurelian, is said to have come to warn his sister St Sidwell about rising sea level in the 400s.

Mr Yates said: “Rising sea levels is part of our DNA, and we’ll be thinking about that, too, as climate change affects people across the world.”

During the service, prayers will be said for the leaders of the seven wealthiest nations as they meet for the G7 conference in Cornwall this weekend. “Elements of the service will include asking everyone to face in a north-east direction to look at Carbis Bay, where G7 will be taking place, and to direct prayers for the forthcoming G7 and the leaders soon to be gathering there.”

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