Sunday, 26 July 2015

Wildlife and churches



Some time ago I got the book called "God's Acre" which I know quite a few of you have got, and if you haven't you must. It's a book all about the flowers and animals of the parish church.

The churchyard-God's Acre- is one of the most enduring features of the English Landscape.
The 20,000 churchyards in Britain span every possible habitat from seashore and rocky coastline to grass and heathland, moor and deep wood. Over many centuries these churchyards have established themselves as unofficial nature reserves where an abundance and diversity of indigenous and naturalized wildlife flourishes undisturbed. Churchyards have provided a sanctuary for all kinds of flowering plants, shrubs and rare species of fern, mosses, lichens and fungi. These in turn support an extraordinary variety and density of animal life-gravestones insects, frogs,toads, shrews, and mice.
the shy creatures of the countryside , the owl, badgers and deer, have all found a refuge within these ancient enclosures, and despite erosive urbanization, the marbled white, adonis blue and silver studded blue butterflies still eke out a precarious existence in them.

by Francesca Greenoak 



Both me and Ragged Robin had talked about doing some posts on wildlife rich churchyards, RR has another book all about churchyards you can visit which are doing more for wildlife, some have got grants from the Lottery fund and like this church in Otley they are working with Yorkshire Wildlife trust.

Otley Parish Church.

 It is believed that the site of All Saints may have been consecrated as early as the 2nd century AD when Christianity first came to Britain. The earliest evidence of Christian worship are fragments of Anglian crosses, the oldest being dated at about 750 AD. These crosses will have been used as focal points for Christian gatherings before church buildings were erected.
The first church building on the site was Anglo Saxon but only the foundations still remain. A Norman church was built over those foundations during the 11th century, and this forms the present day chancel. It was enlarged in about 1240 by the addition of a wide nave, a north and south transept and a plain unbuttressed tower. Further additions and modifications took place during later centuries, including the magnificent stained-glass East Window in 1851.
There is still much evidence of its history, both inside and outside the church, in the form of architectural features, memorials and artefacts. (link)



The front of the church is kept neat with formal boarders, but planted with pollen rich flowers like Lavender, Sedum and Geranium.  Bees, Hoverflies were on theses and I did disturb a Grasshopper.



The trees , bushes support the birds and there was a Squirrel up in the tree, to the ivy growing over the graves support Spiders and other small wildlife. On the gravestones mosses and lichens were present.


Right in the middle of the churchyard is the most impressive Willow tree were it's branches come right down the the ground.






There are some impressive grave stones too at this church, which I would like to learn more about on another day.

The meadow is situated right at the back of the churchyard, not a big area but enough to support wildlife. This time of year it is a little over grown with grasses.








There were a few Ragwort plants and every one was were covered in Cinnabar caterpillars, the past week I must have looked at ever plant up on Yeadon Banks as the fields are full of Ragwort and not one caterpillar, this just shows how important just a few plants can be.
Peacock caterpillars, Ladybirds and Meadow browns were all found.




Dragonflies, Damselflies and it was not till I got home I noticed the Yarrow flower was covered it what might be Shieldbugs.


I was taking a photo of the Horse chestnut tree which is infested with the leaf miner moth.
The larvae of this tiny moth forms burrows within the leaf tissue, with heavy infestations resulting in leaf browning and drying and, over time, leaf death.


when I saw a Parasitic wasp, impressive with it's log tail but creepy as well.



More wild flowers were found, one of the fallen grave stones was been used by the Blackbird to break open snails, and wonderful views across Otley from both sides of the churchyard.




I was very impressed with the amount of wildlife I discovered to day, and I would imagine there is much more to be found on another visit.


The church is in the middle of been renovated ,but I managed to have a look inside at the windows, so this is for you Caroline and  David, there is so much more to discover in and around this church.








Hope you will think about having a look at a wild church over the summer , I will be interested to see what you find....






36 comments:

  1. Hello Amanda, lovely image of the church and the churchyards. The stained glass windows are beautiful. And I love all the flowers, wildlife and the gravestones are impressive. My favorite is the gorgeous Willow tree. Great post, enjoy your new week ahead!

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  2. Thanks so much Eilleen, nice comment..have enjoyed going round the church..
    Amanda xx

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  3. Great post Amanda, super photos too. I had intended to visit a churchyard during the 30 Days Wild Challenge but never got to in the end. Churchyards are great places for flowers and wildlife. I love the stained glass window shots at the end of the post, beautiful.

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    1. Thanks Ian, glad you like the post and there is nothing stopping you going to look for a church now...
      Amanda xx

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  4. Great post Amanda and hopefully there will be more church & nature posts to come from yourself and RR :-) I personally love visiting churches and enjoying the peace and quiet of churchyards, and with more and more churches deciding to work with wildlife rather than against it, I think more and more people will seek them out for nature observing. As you say some of the graves & tombs are impressive, I suppose an indication of the past & present wealth of the Otley area. I also loved seeing the colourful stained glass :-)

    Hope you are well and kindest regards to all :-)

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    1. Thanks David, glad you like the post, have discovered a lot more things while looking at this church which I never knew about, so hope to do another post soon, I had not realised Thomas Chippendale, the cabinetmaker, was born in Otley.
      Amanda xx

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  5. Very interesting post Amanda - it is a lovely churchyard you have there full of interesting flowers and wildlife. Ours is a bit more manicured than yours but there are six huge Linden trees which the bees congregate in when it is in flower - they literally hum with the buzz of bees and smell wonderful too.

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    1. Thanks Elaine, The churches were I live are all very neat, they do support some nature but not as much as having a wild flower meadow, the six trees must look quite impressive..
      Amanda xx

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  6. I love these old churchyards and wish we had more of them locally. A great idea for a post. x

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    1. Thanks Julie, have looked at a few before I discovered they had a meadow at the back of the churchyard, looking in from the front you would not know. Please do a post if you find one, discovering the history of the church is as much fun as looking for the wildlife. Ian said he had hoped to do a post for 30 days wild, but missed out, you both could do a wild post once a month.
      Amanda xx

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  7. I planned to do this for 30 Days Wild but didn't manage it! You found some great things and took some lovely photos. That tree is beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Louise, there might be a church some were that just fits the bill for your wild life post...
      Amanda xx

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  8. A really wonderful post Amanda which I enjoyed so much - I am so glad you found a churchyard so rich in wildlife close to you :)

    Thanks so much for the mentions and for the stained glass photos - just beautiful :)

    You found such a super collection of wildlife - great photos - and I just loved the Willow Tree. I don't think I've ever seen one in a churchyard. Well done on the Cinnabar moth caterpillars - I've been examining every Ragwort I see and I still haven't found any yet this year. The plant you so kindly identified in my garden from the leaves some time ago is now finally in flower - I live in hope re: caterpillars :)

    Its great news that so many churchyards are being "managed" in a way sympathetic to wildlife and I really look forward to you visiting the churchyard again and seeing what else you can find :)

    Will try and visit the churchyard I mentioned to you sometime soon. I was planning to go last week but the afternoon turned out dull and cloudy and I wanted to do a butterfly count while I was there so postponed the visit.

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    1. Thanks RR, I was not expecting to find so much on this first day, and enjoyed looking round the church as well. I was thinking four visits a year, one for each season, but will popping back sooner as I often go into Otley to shop so I can pop in and have a look. They have a leaflet in the church about the things they have found in the grounds. and would all so like to find out the story behind one of the people buried in the churchyard.
      Look forward to your post and hope we might get other bloggers taking a look in a church at wildlife.
      Amanda xx

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    2. Four visits a year is a good idea Amanda. The churchyards I have visited in the past I have tended to go early Spring for snowdrops/primroses and late Spring. I have missed out visits at other times of the year which means you miss out on different wildlife :( Look forward to hearing more about the leaflet of things they have found in the grounds and the story behind one of the gravestones.

      I discovered that a few years ago Women's Institute members recorded flowers in churchyards (at least in Warwickshire) - I am not sure if it was nationwide. But am having problems finding out any more details which is a shame but I will persevere!!

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  9. This is interesting to me. Our graveyards generally aren't allowed to be overgrown, which seems silly. What does it say about us? Only old abandoned ones (no one to "care" for them) look like this. Most are "manicured" as Elaine says, with planted lawns etc. I've read other blog posts about your churchyards as refuges for nature -- what a great thing.

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    1. Thanks Hollis, Not everyone will be happy having a wild area, but there is wild life to be found even in a manicured church, especially the trees, now they are worth looking at.
      Amanda xx

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  10. What an informative post Amanda. Such a lovely Church with beautiful stained glass. Churchyards are such peaceful places I'm not surprised that wildlife finds a refuge there.
    Jacqui

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    1. Thanks Jacqui, hope you are well, you should take a look next time you are in Otley, worth a visits.
      Amanda xx

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  11. Great post. I have the same book and it is well worth reading. I was talking to the manager of a local cemetery the other day- they have a problem leaving grass long because it hampers people getting to the graves. They got complaints so had to keep it short. I would imagine ancient churchyards have less of a problem with this. Interesting stuff. xx

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    1. Thanks CT, I know my dad complains when he goes to tend his mothers grave, he likes it looking as neat as possible the churchyard. The meadow was right at the back and not visible even when going to the church, if I am honest it did look messy and a little out of place, it's just getting the right balance, if possible.
      Amanda xx

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  12. It seems as though it is a very good home for people and wildlife alike. xx

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    1. Thanks Amy, more and more churches are doing this, with a few changes it would be a nice place to sit and remember the people you have come to visit..
      Amanda xx

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  13. Stunning photographs, and what a wonderful idea for a post! I will have to get that book!

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    1. Thanks PP, you must try and get the book it's so nice with plenty of information and wonderful drawings..
      Amanda xx

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  14. The book sounds like a good read and will make a note of it. Our local parish church has a good policy on encouraging wild life in the old churchyard and adjoining field due to some enthusiastic lovers of nature. They even do a tour and talk to explain the wild life habitat that they're keen on maintaining. I might do an update as I haven't blogged about this for some time.

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    1. Thanks Linda, I would be interested to see a post on your church, the key to keeping people happy is information I think, I like the idea of the tours.
      Amanda xx

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  15. Lovely photos Amanda.. I love seeing church yards with a wild area for the wildlife.. there are a few around where I live that do this and it can look stunning. Never took photos though, must change that. :o)

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    1. Thanks Julie, please do a post if you can, it would be nice to link them all, and it's something we are all interested in too.
      Amanda xx

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  16. Great post. Churchyards are such fascinating places. xx

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    1. Thanks serendipity, everyone has enjoyed this post, so have been looking out for another church to visit...
      Amanda xx

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  17. Great post. Churchyards are such fascinating places. xx

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  18. What a very nice and interesting post Amanda, and your photo's just form such a great part of it.

    It's amazing the amount of wildlife there is - you just need to know where and what to look for.

    Enjoy the rest of your week.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thanks Jan, If I had had the time I am sure I would have found more, on the look out for some more churches to visit..
      Amanda xx

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  19. On the yarrow they look like Varied Carpet Beetles - their larvae are the ones known as Woolly Bears which eat your carpet, but the adults like to eat nectar.

    I loved this post and it reminds me of England and makes me home sick! Here in this part of France at least, every village has an impressive (for the size of the village) church, but they are right in the middle of the village surrounded by concrete and tarmac. And graveyards are always separate at the edge of the village and also not a blade of grass to be seen, all nicely tended but just gravel or concrete and boring as hell. In England I love looking round churchyards and looking at old graves. Lovely post. :-) xx

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    1. Thanks Mandy, and for the I.D of the beetles, never saw them when I took the photo, don't know why as the flower is covered, Google them and I have never seen them before.
      The church in Yeadon has a separate place for the graves and kept nice and tidy, which to be fair is what some people want, it's just finding the right balance....
      Amanda xx

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