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St Mary’s Churchyard, Oldberrow

Jane O'Dell, Churchwarden at St Mary's in Oldberrow, writes about their wildlife-rich churchyard.

St Mary’s Churchyard at Oldberrow was designated a Local Wildlife Site for its high nature conservation value in 2003, a decision made by Warwickshire County Council, Natural England and the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. You would be hard pressed to find a better example of a flower-rich churchyard in the Diocese of Coventry. It is managed traditionally with a hay cut in the autumn after plants have set seed.

In spring we have a profusion of Cowslips, Bugle and Cuckooflower. Through the summer Lady’s Bedstraw, Selfheal, Betony, Lady’s-mantle, Birds-foot-trefoil, Hoary Plantain, Black Knapweed, Devil-bit Scabious, Quaking-grass, Yellow Oat-grass and many other species of wildflowers and grasses. These wildflowers are part of an entirely natural community of native species determined by the underlying geology and they are absolutely beautiful!

Before we cut the hay in the autumn, the churchyard can look a bit untidy but in this floral 'untidiness' there is a wealth of provision for native species of fauna; voles, toads, frogs, slow worms, butterflies & moths, grasshoppers & crickets, grass snakes, birds, bats, bees, beetles and many other species of vertebrates and invertebrates. We leave dead wood (both standing and fallen) to support beetles, most of which are entirely dependent on rotting wood to complete their life cycle. We leave lichens on headstones providing food for invertebrates and nest material for some species of bird. Plants and animals have co-evolved over thousands of years and are entirely dependent on each other. Here we have a thriving ecosystem and a rich food chain!

Last year (2018) the green hay was taken by Butterfly Conservation to spread on an area of grassland belonging to the Heart of England Forest to increase the biodiversity there.

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