Love your Burial Ground Week & Churches Count on Nature – FAQs

Love your Burial Ground Week is a celebratory week which has been running for many years. Caring for God’s Acre has been encouraging all who help to look after churchyards, chapel yards and cemeteries to celebrate these fantastic places in the lovely month of June – in any way you choose. We’ve seen history talks, picnics, volunteering work parties and even abseiling teddy bears! 

Churches Count on Nature 2024 is part of Love Your Burial Ground Week, focusing on the brilliant wildlife to be found in churchyards and chapel yards. It is a is a joint initiative promoted by Caring for God’s Acre, the Church of England, the Church in Wales and A Rocha UK.

Over 27,000 wildlife records have been submitted during this dedicated week over the past two years, and many recorders are continuing to submit records through the burial grounds project on iNaturalist UK. Many of the records have been verified and are available to view on https://burialgrounds.nbnatlas.org.

If you can’t see your records there, don’t worry, it is simply in the verifiers ‘to do’ pile!

If you want to start counting wildlife NOW – visit this page to find out how to get going and how to share your records all year round.

Yes certainly!

Love Your Burial Ground Week is open to any group wanting to run an activity in any type of burial ground - whether it is a cemetery, chapel yard, natural burial ground or churchyard. Obviously you will need permission from the managing/responsible group for the site!

Most activities are organised by those responsible for the burial ground  - often in partnership with other local groups such the Local History Society, local school or local wildlife group. For a list of handy resources to help you organise your event, please visit this page.

If you are an individual you may like to use the week to attend an event near you (see our map), or simply visit sites in your area and record the wildlife you see (see other FAQ - iNaturalist is a great way to record and submit your sightings).

If you are organising an event, once you know what you want to do, simply fill in our registration form and your event will appear in our list.

  • Introduces new people to your unique site and brings people together
  • Increases people's interest and support
  • Helps increase people's motivation to stay/become involved in the care of your site
  •  Can provide the basis for action to encourage more wildlife into the churchyard/chapel yard/cemetery
  • If your activity involves recording the species you see you will be taking part in a national survey and getting your site on the map! Go to the National Biodiversity Network website to see where your species records will eventually be found: https://burialgrounds.nbnatlas.org . You can find out more about the importance of recording species on the ‘Why record’ video

Taking part involves you in some way opening your churchyard/chapel yard/cemetery to the local community.

The nature of your own activity/event is up to you, and will depend on:

  1. whether you decide to run a small organised event of some kind or simply have a display which encourages people to explore, 
  2. whether you decide to to advertise it to the public or keep it private to a specific group such as your volunteers or the cubs/brownies,
  3. whether you are leading  the activity yourself, or work with a local wildlife trust, nature group or school who take responsibility for the activity. 

So for example you might;

  • Speak to your local Wildlife Trust or RSPB group, tell them about the week and ask them if they would like to lead an outdoor workshop in your site.  Your role could be as simple publicity and refreshments, or you might run it together.
  • Arrange a morning where people  identify wild plants and send in their records.
  • Suggest to local schools that they could bring groups of pupils to the churchyard, and point them to our Education Pack for information of sessions to run. If it is young children you could simply put up signage next to plants, trees and memorials that the children can spot. 
  • If your activity encourages people to record wildlife then pop to our  Share your Records page for options on how to send these in.

It is worth checking with your insurer that the site/event is covered by your existing insurance and that it is up-to-date.  However, it is no different from holding outdoor worship, summer fete, or any other outdoor group activity in the churchyard.

You will need to carry out a simple risk assessment for your own site and the activity you are running.  Please have a look at our resources page for information to help you prepare your own risk assessment. The most common risk is people tripping over tree roots or graves and kerbs.

If you are running it jointly with another group, then check who will be responsible for any accident/injury on site with regards to insurance.

It is totally free to register your activity and feature on our map.  

Then what you spend is totally in your own control.  

  • You might spend nothing at all, and simply open your gates and make it clear you welcome visitors. 
  • You might spend a little on printing signs.
  • You might want to offer coffees and teas. 
  • You might want to buy a little equipment, like magnifying glasses and white plastic trays to catch minibeasts. The Field Studies Council www.field-studies-council.org/ has excellent fold-out charts for less than £5 each including one on the Wildlife in Burial Grounds which has an array of the more common species found in churchyards - one of these will be sent to you free of charge when you register your event. You might buy a few more including Top 50 Garden Birds, Butterflies, Shield Bugs, Ladybirds, Tree Name Trail. Or if you like a challenge, Churchyard Lichens or Grasses. 

Email Caring for God's Acre at [email protected] and ask for your free  hard copy of their Starter Guide to get going - also available in English and Welsh downloads . You can view it on the website here. In addition, we will send you a copy of our FSC chart, Wildlife in Burial Grounds.

This depends. You will need to decide a few things locally which affect what needs doing:

  • whether you are running an event or simply opening your gates, 
  • whether you want to advertise it to the public or keep it private to the church community,
  • whether the church is leading  the activity or a local wildlife trust / nature group / school.

Having decided this, you will need to think through:

  • Who will plan and promote your activity? – you might need a small group of volunteers to be the organisers
  • Who will be invited to take part? – is it a closed event (for example, the pupils of a local school) or a public event that you want to promote and advertise?
  • If it is a public event, how will you promote it?
  • What day and time are you inviting people to get involved, during the week 8th - 16th June 2024?  If your activity is to record wildlife you might want an hour long organised count, perhaps twice at different times of day, or you might just want an informal count where your gates are open and people come and go.
  • What is needed to get the site ready?  Are there any moveable trip hazards you should clear, for example?
  • Are you going to provide any equipment, and if so where will you get them from? this might be clipboards, magnifying glasses, identification sheets, bug pots, paper, pens or tablets.
  • If you are recording wildlife who will be in charge sorting out how to send in result - via iNaturalist/e-mail or snail mail?!  

The key thing is that everyone feels able to join in, so try to find a way for all to contribute. Perhaps people will be able to bring items such as tree leaves to a central table for help with identification?  Spread out some identification books or the Field Studies Council charts to help. 

You might give out clipboards and paper and ask people to make their own lists, or have a blackboard, flip chart or post-it notes for them to add their findings to the growing list of things. See our Resources  page for templates you can use. Give a few tips to those new to this, including children. 

‘Can you see a molehill? Who made that?’

‘Do you know what a robin looks like? What about a holly tree?’

By the end of the event, someone needs to have drawn up a list of all of the species seen and communicate this to all who took part. Keeping a running tally during the session is fun, and remember to publicise your findings. This might be a notice on your notice board, a round-robin email, an article in a parish magazine or all of these. 

Please, please, please send your records to Caring for God’s Acre. You can upload them via iNaturalist, email a written list to [email protected] or pop the list in the post. 

Once your records have reached our system then check them out on the national database!  https://burialgrounds.nbnatlas.org/

Not everyone involved needs to know about identifying species, but it is more interesting if some people are well informed and can help others. You might want to involve some experts from a local wildlife group to help on the day, and there are lots of helpful FREE resources on our website here

Other information on how to identify species can be found in various ways: 

  • Download the iNaturalist app, this not only helps you to identify species but also allows you to send a biological record to our system. Please have a look at this video  for more information
  • Other apps to download include: RSPB bird song identifier; PlantSnap; European ladybirds.
  • If you wish to make use of local experts your Local Environmental Record Centres might know of experts/volunteers who could help. There are many natural history interest groups with local branches including the Botanical Society of the British Isles, the Mammal Society, the British Trust for Ornithology, Amphibian and Reptile Groups and local bat groups as well as many more. Some of these enthusiasts may wish to get involved
  • Encourage those taking part to bring their own identification books as well as binoculars, hand lenses and magnifying glasses.

Recording species onto the Beautiful Burial ground portal database is a first step towards being able to protect them.  The collated information allows national agencies to know what precious species are located where in the country. It helps the Churches of England and the Church of Wales to know whether they are fulfilling their aims to care for and increase biodiversity and is really useful if you are making an application for a grant. The information flows through to the church’s record on the online Church Heritage Record and Church Heritage Cymru.

More info can be found on the video ‘Why Record’ at https://www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk/resources/films/video-why-record-wildlife/

We need to know:

  • Where you saw the species - name of churchyard
  • What you saw - as accurate a species name as possible
  • When you saw it - date not time of day
  • Who you are - your name and ideally some contact details but name is the key thing

During Love Your Burial Ground Week and Churches Count on Nature 2023  it's fun for local people to see what wildlife has been spotted.  A blackboard or flip chart with a growing list works well. If there is a local website or facebook page, they could be listed here as well.

Once you have a final list then please, please, please send your records to Caring for God’s Acre. You can upload them via iNaturalist, email a written list to [email protected] or pop the list in the post. N.B. if you use the iNaturalist app this will help you to identify species as well as sending in your records so it is really helpful.

Once your records have reached our system then check them out on the national database!  https://burialgrounds.nbnatlas.org/

If you are sending a written list please give us the English name, and if you know the Latin name too, then include it. Don't worry if you don't, English is fine. NB. If you use the iNaturalist system it adds the Latin name automatically!

After you have submitted to your records to iRecord or iNaturalist, they require verification by experts before they move forwards to the Burial Grounds Portal. Unfortunately, some areas and species groups do not have active verifiers. For example, the verification of plant records might be very slow or at a standstill in your particular area. Or if you’re recording a more niche species group such as fungi, there are many fewer verifiers for this species group than for plants. It is for these reasons that although you have submitted your records or we have submitted them on your behalf, many have still not been verified. There are no easy solutions to this problem and indeed it is a problem for all species recording in the UK. One way we have mitigated against this is by encouraging many recorders to consider using iNaturalist, which draws from a global pool of verifiers. iNaturalist is able to achieve this through the heavy use of multi-media, particularly photos, so that verifiers are able to make informed decisions on whether a record should be considered as correct or not.

You can find a host of videos on running similar events (for Love your Burial Ground) on the Caring for God’s Acre website at: www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk/resources/films/ 

We also have useful resources here

Please take a look at the Caring for God’s Acre Action Pack which contains 33 information sheets on all aspects of churchyard management and conservation

During Love Your Burial Ground Week and Churches Count on Nature 2023 the Church of England are running a series of webinars on a range of topics, from climate change to practical management  of churchyards for people and wildlife. There are case studies as well as expert speakers so please have a look at the programme from last year  https://www.churchofengland.org/about/environment-and-climate-change/webinars-land-and-nature-churches-count-nature-week  The new programme for 2023 will be released shortly.

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