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Get back to nature this summer in a churchyard, charities urge

22 April 2021

NEIL OWEN/GEOGRAPH/COMMONS

Part of the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin, Huish Episcopi cum Langport, Somerset, last summer

Part of the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin, Huish Episcopi cum Langport, Somerset, last summer

CHURCH communities and their visitors are being urged to join a week-long survey this summer of the creatures and plants that inhabit their churchyards.

Church land, which is often uncultivated or undeveloped for generations, is regarded by conservationists as a likely refuge for precious and endangered plants and other wildlife. Put together, it is estimated to cover an area similar to a small national park.

The “Churches Count on Nature”, between 5 and 13 June, is a citizen-science event in England and Wales in which people are asked to report the animals, birds, insects, or fungi they find. The data will then be collated on the National Biodiversity Network.

The organisers, the conservation charities Caring for God’s Acre and A Rocha UK, and the Church of England and the Church in Wales, hope to create links with schools and wildlife groups, and encourage people who might never have been in a churchyard to discover the quiet space they offer, especially in urban areas.

The Bishop of St Davids, Dr Joanna Penberthy, said: “Churches Count on Nature is an important and imaginative project open to all denominations. At the end of Genesis chapter one, we are told ‘God saw everything that he had made and behold, it was very good.’ Churches Count on Nature gives us a chance to see a little of what lives in our part of God’s acre, and I do encourage you to get involved.”

The Bishop of Reading, in Oxford diocese, the Rt Revd Olivia Graham, who is a member of the Church of England’s Environmental Working Group, said: “We read in the Gospels that Jesus was deeply rooted in his natural surroundings, the rhythm of the agricultural seasons, the lilies of the field, the birds of the air.

“As Christians, we notice and celebrate the beauty and rich diversity of God’s creation. And from our thankful hearts flows our deep desire to care for and protect it.”

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