Churches across Wales can now register to participate in Churches Count on Nature, an annual scheme where people visit churchyards and record the plant and animal species they encounter.
The biodiversity survey, supported by environmental charities A Rocha UK and Caring for God’s Acre, as well as the Church in Wales and the Church of England, will take place from June 3-11.
In the last two years, 900 counting events took place across churches in England and Wales, and more than 27,000 wildlife records were submitted to Caring for God’s Acre.
The data is used to determine where rare and endangered species are located in the country and to aid churches of all denominations increase biodiversity on their land for the enrichment of the environment and local communities. This year, it is hoped species on many more of the 17,500 acres of churchyards in England and the 1,282 acres managed by the Church in Wales will be mapped.
As churchyards are usually undisturbed and not used for farming, they can be host to a great variety of wildlife not seen in other green spaces, particularly in urban areas. Old churchyards often have fantastic flowery and species-rich grasslands as they have been so little disturbed over the centuries.
Churches Count on Nature is part of Love Your Burial Ground Week, which is open to anyone with a love of nature. Churches are being encouraged to connect with local schools, wildlife groups, and those who may not have visited before to discover their churchyards.
This year’s survey is the first in three years to take place without Covid restrictions, so registered churches will hope to see an increased number of parishioners taking part in counting events.
The count can serve not only to raise awareness and encourage care of wildlife in churchyards but to provide local communities with a shared activity that can bring people together.
Archbishop of Wales, Andrew John, said: “Our churchyards – God’s acres – are simply buzzing with life. They are unique as peaceful green spaces which have been undisturbed and undeveloped for centuries. We want to find out just how rich and diverse in plant and animal life they are today so that we can ensure they are habitats which are protected and nurtured for future generations.
“I’m appealing to those who look after churchyards - whether they are in the country or the city, at large cathedrals or small hamlets - to join in Churches Count on Nature during Love Your Burial Ground week in June. Invite the whole community, young and experienced, and make a day of it – it’s an easy, free and fun way to show just how much we care for God’s creation."
“Don’t forget to register, use the great resources and send in your results so we can get a clear picture of the treasures we need to protect.”