Bishop of Norwich Unleashes Nature’s Revival: Churchyards Urged to Embrace Rewilding!

Church of England Bishop Calls for Rewilding of Churchyards to Enhance Biodiversity and Revitalize Sacred Spaces

Churchyards in England should be transformed into thriving ecosystems to enhance biodiversity and create vibrant spaces for the living, according to a bishop from the Church of England. With local parishes responsible for around 7,100 hectares of churchyards and the Church itself owning approximately 34,000 hectares of farmland and 9,300 hectares of forestry, the General Synod will vote on a plan later this month to promote biodiversity and develop land action plans at various levels. The bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, stressed the importance of enhancing the biodiversity of these ancient landscapes, which often feature old trees and hedgerows. He proposed leaving areas of churchyards unmown to allow for the growth of rare plant species. Usher’s vision is for churchyards to become places where life flourishes, not just memorials for the deceased.

A paper submitted to the synod meeting acknowledges the potential for biodiversity within churchyards, but it also recognises the significance of these spaces as burial grounds and the importance of public access and consideration for mourners. The Church of England’s national land has historically been used to generate income, particularly in less affluent areas. However, the paper notes a growing commitment to increasing biodiversity and reducing carbon emissions on these holdings.

Usher emphasised the need for collaboration between the Church and its tenant farmers to achieve positive impacts on nature. He stated that actions benefiting the environment are often beneficial for business and people as well. The Church of England has already issued guidance to parishes on how to enhance biodiversity, including measures such as leaving areas of long grass, creating wildflower zones, installing bird and bat boxes, keeping bees, and encouraging hedgehogs. Many parishes have already implemented biodiversity action plans. For example, St Mary’s in Wargrave, Berkshire, has ceased regular mowing and strimming of grass to promote the growth of wildflowers and provide habitats for animals and insects. The church has also transitioned from using fuel-powered tools to a scythe for maintenance work in the rewilded area. Regular wildlife surveys have demonstrated an increase in flora and fauna since the rewilding initiative began.

The Church of England’s commitment to biodiversity and land stewardship reflects a wider global movement towards conservation and sustainability. By rewilding churchyards and working with tenant farmers, the Church can contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and the creation of thriving ecosystems. These efforts align with the Church’s mission to care for the natural world and promote the flourishing of all life.

John O Mahony

John O Mahony

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