A team of stalwart volunteers has been looking after the churchyard at St Giles since 1998 and we receive annual Bishops’ Awards for continued good management of this lovely haven for wildlife. We have areas of special interest at different times of the year, following a management plan which allows for Spring and Summer meadows.  We have several large yew trees providing shaded areas with bird boxes attached to them.

Each month, from March to November, the working parties rake the mown grass,  to deplete nutrients allowing wildflowers to flourish, clear some of the dominant species (nettle, bramble, ivy) and in Spring, we often plant native wildflower plugs from a certified nursery (Landcare, Old Sodbury)

The Flora are surveyed and recorded each month and a data base covering several years has been drawn up. We have used Longworth live traps to survey the mammal populations and have had moth evenings and carried out insect surveys. We have several viewing containers and enjoy the company of youngsters who help us flush out the insects and other invertebrates!

Several years ago, we paid for an Interpretation board to be put up in the churchyard.  This colourful seasonal guide explains what to look for at different times of the year and helps explain to locals and visitors alike that there are deliberate wild areas which may look overgrown to the untrained eye.  

Two of our younger volunteers set up a geocache for us.  We are registered on www.geocache.com as part of the nationwide “treasure hunt” where people can search for a micro-cache hidden in the churchyard, following online clues. This initiative brings in visitors who might not otherwise venture into a churchyard; we get regular feedback of very positive online comments on the lovely surroundings. Since its inception, another geocache has been added.

We have a Facebook page, St Giles Living Churchyard Group, with 24 members; this group is open for public viewing and we post updates on the work that we do and show photographs of current plants in flower and any interesting insects that keep still long enough!

Stanton Primary school is directly opposite our church and the children have used the churchyard as a resource to look for plants and mini-beasts. Becky Fisher, our Rural Schools and Churches worker, has also used the churchyard for nature activities.

Pride may be a sin, but we are a little proud of the work carried out at St Giles. Churchyards are so important as places for quiet contemplation but also as a refuge and home for native plants and animals.  With God’s Grace and careful management, we hope to continue to provide a wildlife area, a true Living Churchyard.

Blog written by Ivan Randall and Liz Cullen

Discover more volunteering opportunities like this