As Christians we are called to care for our God-given creation. Churches and their churchyards are an important part of the diverse natural habitat of England.
Despite diligent work by conservation and nature organisations, UK wildlife continues to be in a state of decline. Not all species have suffered equally: conservation efforts have helped to rescue some iconic species such as bittern, red kite and Atlantic cod. But the general trend is downwards.
Many species respond positively to conservation work and will recover well if we act to save them. The Christian Conservation organisation Arocha UK has launched an exciting project which they have called Target 10. The plan is to target ten key species with the aim of reversing their decline.
At All Saints' we have decided to adapt this project and target five key species and species groups with the aim of reversing local decline. All five are present in the churchyard and the specially set aside wildlife area.
We believe these are species which could show local increases quite quickly, given the right site management.
Here are the five species with a brief explanation of what we are hoping to do to help them.
Hedgehogs need our help – numbers have declined in the last few decades, down by 50% in many areas, and burial grounds can really help their survival. Surveys have shown that we have a population of Hedgehogs in the churchyard of All Saints'. With some extra care, our churchyard could become a place where hedgehogs nest, feed and hibernate.
Did you know? A typical hedgehog has over 5,000 spines, each of which lasts about a year before dropping off.
Dragonflies and Damselflies
Interestingly while some native dragonfly and damselfly, species are declining, new ones are arriving because of warming weather. New habitat for dragonflies will also help their daintier relatives.
The beautiful Banded Demoiselle Damselfly has been seen in the Wildlife Area at All Saints' This may not seem like appropriate habitat for insects that are associated with water but they are strong flyers and so it is not surprising to find them away from ponds and canals. We aim to record dragonfly and damselfly sightings to discover how important the wildlife area is as a feeding ground for these insects.
Did you know? Damselflies sit with their wings folded while dragons leave their wings open. That’s how you can tell them apart!
It’s well known that bees are seriously threatened. Disease is the main cause of the declines in the UK, but the loss of many wildflower species is also a big issue. Providing new habitat is one solution and we plan to do this by creating wildflower patches within the wild life area at All Saints..
There are many different bee species, all of which are vital for the pollination of plants. In the near future we will carry out a "Bee Survey" to discover which species are visiting the Wildlife Area at All Saints'
Did you know? A queen bee can lay up to 1 million eggs in her lifetime.
This really important species is reducing in number through hybridisation with Spanish bluebell from garden centres. This problem is easy to manage if Spanish bluebell are detected early and pulled up.
There are English Bluebells growing in All Saints' Churchyard. Unfortunately there are Spanish Bluebells too. We will be removing these and replacing them with English Bluebells. The time to do this is in late summer/early autumn.
Did you know? In the Bronze Age, ‘glue’ from bluebells was used to stick feathers to arrows for hunting parties. A typical bluebell contains 15 different biological compounds to protect it from attack by insects
Our common toad is in trouble: monitoring since 1985 of 153 sites has indicated a decline of nearly 70%. Loss of freshwater ponds, road death, climate change (drought) and pollution all contribute to their demise.
Toads are to be found in All Saints' churchyard - if you look very carefully. They love to hide in dark, damp places during the day and so, to encourage them, we have created 'Toad Shelters' made from half buried plant pots in our new Wildlife Area.
Did you know? Common toad don’t normally hop – they walk! They eat a huge range of food: spiders, slugs, worms and sometimes even small snakes and mice.