National count to assess biodiversity in churchyards

(Photo: Church of England)

Hundreds of churches have signed up to take part in a national count over the summer that will assess the level of nature in Britain’s churchyards.

Churchyards are hubs of biodiversity and many of them are uniquely unploughed and undeveloped, offering habitats for precious and endangered plants and other wildlife.

From 5 to 13 June, people are being encouraged to visit the nation’s churchyards as part of the Churches Count on Nature campaign.

They will be asked to make a record of the animals, birds, insects or fungi they see there, with the data being collated on the National Biodiversity Network

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

Churches are being encouraged to team up with local schools, wildlife groups and anyone who might never have visited a churchyard before. 

The campaign is also open to anyone to get involved, whether they are nature experts or not. 

Webinars from leading conservationists, scientists, and experts will run in conjuction with the campaign, with registration open on the Church of England’s website.

The Bishop of Reading, Olivia Graham, who sits on the Church of England’s Environmental Working Group, said: “Together, churchyards cover a huge area –estimated to be equivalent to a small national park.

“I would strongly encourage churches to sign up to Churches Count on Nature.

“It is simple to join in and there is plenty of guidance for churches, organisers, and participants online.

“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.”

Dr Joanna Penberthy, Bishop of St Davids, in the Church in Wales, said: “Churches Count on Nature is an important and imaginative project open to all denominations.

“Church communities with churchyards, open spaces, burial grounds or land are being encouraged to take notice of them and document the plants and wildlife within them. Look at the website: it is simple to log in and has plenty of advice to help you.

“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.”

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