Churchyard becomes seed donor for Butterfly Conservation Project
St Mary’s Oldberrow, Henley-in-Arden, B95 5NT
St Mary’s, Oldberrow is a small Victorian restoration on a 13th century site with a stunning, unspoilt, species-rich churchyard. Here the native flora has been flowering and setting seed for centuries. In the spring there is a profusion of cowslips, while in the summer knapweeds, scabious, betony, quaking grass and countless other species are encouraged to flower and set seed. The churchyard was designated a Local Wildlife Site in 2003.
In 2018 St Mary’s contributed to a wildlife habitat improvement project undertaken by the Heart of England Forest, Warwick Natural History Society and Butterfly Conservation.
The Nolan’s Wood Project aims to reinstate a new forest on former intensively farmed agricultural land which is floristically very species poor. The forest design includes wide rides and clearings to create a mosaic of habitats.
In order to control invasive weed and grass species and to give a good base, a fine grass, creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra) was seeded throughout. The areas have been mown annually and a hay crop taken to decrease nutrient levels.
The next phase was to improve the floral diversity of the rides, which is where St Mary’s stepped in.
First of all, the rides at Nolan’s wood were mown. Then the flowery grass at St Mary’s was cut, taken to the wood and spread over the wide area of rides. Best practice is to remove these clippings a few days later, once the seed has fallen. However, to decrease the workload the team decided to spread the clippings very thinly and avoid the need for raking it all back up again. In addition to the clippings from St Mary’s, seed was collected from a variety of other locations using a leaf blower on reverse. This was scattered on site
Baseline surveys were undertaken before the improvement project was commenced. This means the team knows what species of bird, butterfly, dragonfly, fungi and flowers were present at the start (along with their abundance). These surveys will be repeated annually to quantify changes.
CONCLUSIONS AND NEXT STEPS
Many species of wildflowers have found refuge in burial grounds whilst being under constant threat in the wider countryside. Now these sites can make a positive contribution to the restoration of the wider countryside. And that is something to be proud of!
Thank you to Mike Slater from Warwickshire Butterfly Conservation and Jane O’Dell from St Mary’s Church for photos, information and inspiration
Caring for God’s Acre Action Pack sheets:
Section A Sheet 2 Caring for Grassland
Section A Sheet 3 Cutting Long Grass and Dealing with Grass Cuttings
Section A Sheet 8 Creating a Wildflower Meadow and Helping Wildlife