Wildlife in a Sacred place

October 2018

Wildlife in a Sacred place
We are creating a wildlife area in a section of the old grave yard below the church.
There will be;

  • A variety of different nesting/roosting boxes for birds, owls and bats
  • Plants to encourage various insects including bees and butterflies
  • Habitat for our friendly hedgehogs
  • Refuges for lichens to prosper and multiply, along with wild mushrooms and toadstools
  • God’s Own Fungi

    Take a slow stroll over the grass around the Church of Keswick St John during October and you can’t help but notice the splashes of colour that appear here and there on the grass. These are fungi that go by the fascinating names of “Waxcaps”, “Earthtongues”, “Corals”, ”Spindles” and “Pinkgills”. They demand short cropped or mown grass, that has never or not for a long time been subjected to fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides etc, nor has it been ploughed. In some parts of the country such “Unimproved Grassland” habitats are few and far between and this community of fungi hang on in churchyards and burial grounds.

    During the last week of October 2017, I paid a brief visit with a friend to St John’s churchyard. We recorded 19 species of fungi, and of these 10 were the brightly coloured waxcaps, which means that our churchyard is of Regional Importance. Had we found just one more, then it would be of National Importance.

    The grass around the church (the upper churchyard surrounding the building) is very much worthy of protection as during our visit we also saw hundreds of the quite rare Black Earthtongue, several Pinkgills and three different types of Coral fungi. Protection will simply involve continuing with the current regime of close mowing, avoiding mowing when the mushrooms are up (October into early November) and avoiding the use of any chemicals.

    So next autumn take a walk around the church (but tread carefully) and look out for these small delights that have made their home on the lawns.

    Paul Nichol
    For a fuller version of this article and some lovely pictures, visit the CC4CC blogsite https://caringforourcommonhome.wordpress.com/2018/01/29/gods-own-fungi/

    We hope our discovery will also soon feature on the website of Caring for God’s Acre, the national charity dedicated to conserving and celebrating burial grounds. http://www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk/

    Creating a wildflower area in the churchyard
    A working party got together in early October 2017 to begin the process of creating an experimental wildflower area in the bottom end of the ‘old’ churchyard.

    First the grass had to be cut very short, and the mosses and other fine growing plants removed by rigorous scarifying (this was very hard work!). Yellow rattle seed (rhinanthus minor) was then sown.

    Yellow rattle is a parasite plant which attaches itself to the roots of the grass plants thus weakening them. Weakening the grass’s hold will allow wild flowers to flourish and bring back a wider variety of plant life into the graveyard, and with it a wider variety of insects and birds.

    The future mowing regime on the chosen patch will now be reduced to twice per year: once in late July or early August after all wild flowers have seeded and then again in late September to make the graveyard look tidy during the winter months. All grass clippings will need to be collected to prevent over-fertilisation of the grass.

    We look forward this year to seeing abundant yellow rattle growing in the area. In midsummer we will sow wild flower seeds and hopefully next year we will see both abundant wildflowers and lots of butterflies and insects.

    The full story and some pictures can be seen at
    The Secret of Yellow Rattle

  • The ground is slowly being prepared for planting in September with wild grass and flower seeds. Some small shrubs will also be planted in this area. It is a slow process but the end result should be worth waiting for. Another smaller area is being prepared and some wild plants have already been planted.

    Two bird boxes have been put in place, one of which has been occupied by blue tits. An owl box and an insect box are also up and waiting to be occupied – hopefully next year.
    There is a family of rabbits happily living in the undergrowth, along with a family of black birds