Heavenly wildlife havens

Saturday 16th May 2015

My Wild Life is a weekly column running each Saturday throughout 2015 in the East Anglian Daily Times. Each week it features stories of action for local wildlife

By Tracey Housley, conservation adviser, Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Churchyards can be havens for wildlife in a wider landscape that has seen many changes over the last 60 years and are often rare remnants of a grassland habitat that was once common in Suffolk.

A churchyard has many intrinsic qualities that benefit wildlife. The varying lengths of grass, headstones, pathways, mature trees and shrubs, as well as the outside of the church building itself all provide vital habitat for nesting, breeding, feeding and refuge for a wide range of species. 

The Trust has worked with churches in many of the parishes across Suffolk and it is clear that, increasingly, people are starting to see their local churchyard in a different way and recognising its value as a green resource for both the local community and local wildlife, without detracting from its original purpose and as a place of quiet reflection and contemplation. Many parishes are embracing the practice of making some simple changes to the management of their churchyard, such as cutting some areas of grass less frequently to allow wildflowers to thrive or allowing some areas of scrub to develop to benefit birds and insects. 

The churches at two neighbouring villages, Bradfield St Clare and Little Whelnetham, both tried a new cutting regime last year following recommendations from Suffolk Wildlife Trust and have been absolutely delighted with the results. By simply delaying the first grass cut of the year until July they were amazed at the display of wildflowers that came through, alive with butterflies, bees and other insects during the warm summer days. Both parishes are keen to encourage visitors to explore the churchyard and are building up a list of the species that are growing in the churchyard or have been spotted using it.

If you’d like more information about managing your local churchyard with wildlife in mind please contact Suffolk Wildlife Trust on 01473 890089. The advice directory on the Trust’s website is also a good place to start and has a dedicated churchyard wildlife section.


This and many of the projects featured in this column have received support from the Heritage Lottery Funded Networking Nature initiative.

If you’d like your local wildlife project featured here please get in touch with kerry.stranix@suffolkwildlifetrust.org

Look out for churchyard events during National Cherishing Churchyards week. This year it runs from 6-14 June. The Trust is involved in these events at Herringswell and Hundon.


Forthcoming events:

Discover Herringswell churchyard, Friday 12 June, 6pm – 7.30pm. Join us to explore the churchyard taking in the history, wildlife and habitat management.

Discover Hundon churchyard , Friday 12 June, 6pm – 7.30pm. A guided walk around the churchyard to look at the wildlife and history of the church.


Also coming up…

Lackford Lakes – Wild for the Weekend. On Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 May join us at Lackford Lakes to look at ‘Things with Wings’. Including a bat walk on Saturday night from 9pm. More details at suffolkwildifetrust.org




Tagged with: Volunteering, Heritage Lottery Fund, My Wild Life