St John's - Stone
Photo © Michael Pitt-Payne
The amount of land around a Church can vary from a concrete yard to an
extensive churchyard which, in many cases, will once have been part of a species-rich ancient pasture
or meadowland. A churchyard should, of course, be a pleasant, reflective place for its congregation
and visitors but there's no reason why it shouldn't also be a valuable ecological habitat - a haven
for grasses, wildflowers, trees, birds, butterflies, moths and other wild creatures.
UTB runs an annual Churchyard Butterfly Survey and several of our surveyors have been working with
church wardens for a number of years to create a working churchyard management plan and this is
being rewarded by an increased number of butterfly species recorded there.
Helen Hyre took over the role of Churchyard Recording Co-ordinator in
2009 and will be organising the team of surveyors and writing reports of the annual
survey results. If you feel you could spare some time to assist with one or more surveys please
You don't need to be a UTB member to join the survey team but we
hope that, once you've found out more about what we do, you will want to
join Butterfly Conservation!
Churchyard Management Plan
The following are some basic guidelines for churchyard management, designed to be
sensitive towards the needs of both people and wildlife. With the churchwarden's approval, the
Churchyard Management Plan could be displayed in the Church, maybe with a few photos, to show that the
churchyard is a beautiful place to visit as well as being beneficial to wildlife.
All grass cuttings should be removed - delicate
flowering plants can be smothered by grass cuttings and they also encourage stronger growing plants
at the expense of wild flowers.
Paths and other well-used areas probably need to be mown as often as a lawn.
Grass around infrequently visited gravestones can be cut less often, to a height of about
3 inches (7cm). If possible, do not mow these areas from May to mid-July, to
allow a good variety of plants to flower and set seed.
Mown paths through longer areas of grass will guide visitors through the "wildlife areas" and show
them that it is part of a properly managed churchyard.
Rarely visited areas could be mown once a year in late September to allow a good variety of plants
to grow. Longer areas of grass will be used by breeding 'Brown' butterflies, numerous moths
and other creatures and the flowering plants within the grass by many more, making these
areas the most productive part of a wildlife churchyard.
Try not to use artificial fertilisers, insecticides, herbicides and other chemicals.
Wingrave Churchyard showing different grass lengths
Ivy should be left untrimmed where possible. It is one of the main foodplants
of the Holly Blue (along with holly). It provides bird nesting sites during March to July and is a late
nectar source for butterflies in late summer and autumn.
Stinging nettles in a sunny position could act as the foodplant for Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell,
Painted Lady or Red Admiral and many moth species.
Planting New Trees
Ideally these should be native trees and planted where they will not shade out wildflower areas
in years to come.
List of Churchyards Surveyed
The following is a list of the 68 Churchyards currently being surveyed
(as at January 2015):
Tilehurst, St Michael
Wargrave, St Mary
Halton, St Michael
Monks Risborough cemetery
Monks Risborough, St Dunstan
Brightwell cum Sotwell, St Agatha
Brightwell cum Sotwell, St James
Didcot, All Saints
Henley, Holy Trinity
Kings Sutton cemetery
Oxford, Iffley St Mary
Oxford, SS Mary & John
Stanford in the Vale
Wallingford, Memorial Chapels
Wallingford, St Leonard
How You Can Help
Is your churchyard good for wildlife? Could you visit it on 4 occasions during
the year to record the butterflies you see? Would your local school like to look for butterflies in
the churchyard? If so, Helen Hyre
would love to hear from you, especially if you live in the following areas:
- West Berkshire
- South Bucks
- North Oxfordshire
- West Oxfordshire
and anywhere else in these 3 counties - your help will be very welcome!
the Churchyard Management Plan - Churchyard_mgmt_Jan2010.pdf (290Kb PDF file)
Click here for the
Churchyard Butterfly Survey form.