Frequently Asked Questions
We have put together this list of FAQs which will point you towards some of the fabulous resources we have on this website, available to view or to download in many cases.
If you find our resources helpful, please consider making a donation towards supporting our work.
Yes we can! We have a few ways of doing this.
- One way to receive bespoke advice is to become a member and join in our monthly zoom meetings – please visit Becoming a Member.
- We can visit in person where we meet with your group, and then we work with you to create a Management Brief for your site.
- We can also carry out a Virtual Visit which is where you upload footage of your site for us to view then we have a zoom meeting and discuss options and give advice.
The Management Brief and Virtual Visit are paid for services and people who have used them have found them really valuable. For more explanation and prices please visit How We Can Help You.
Visit Add Your Records for details of the different ways to send in your records.
We love using iNaturalist as it helps us to identify things AND sends the record directly into the project database, but there are other ways too. Have a look at our Action Pack sheet B10 Surveying for Plants and Animals to learn more about recording wildlife.
The ancient and veteran yews in the UK are special on globally level and our churchyards are where most of them are found so we have a range of resources to help you to look after them. It’s a good idea to start with our Action Pack sheet A5 Yews and Other Veteran Trees, then for a more in-depth guide take a look at A Guide to Ancient and Veteran Churchyard Trees. There’s also a video with some great information by tree expert Russell Ball.
Here are some basic guidelines that, if followed, keep them ticking along for years:
- Never assume that a yew is dying or dead. Many can carry a lot of deadwood, can look ‘untidy’ or have discoloured needles but will still recover and regenerate.
- Ivy can smother the crown which adds weight and reduces light. Ancient yews have a large mass to support (trunk and branches), with a relatively small amount of leaves/needles, so anything that decreases the photosynthesising capacity (by removing a branch or by ivy stopping them photosynthesising) can cause it to decline. Ivy can also hide tree defects, the identification of which are important when assessing tress.
Although ivy has wildlife benefits it needs to be removed from yews. Our Action Pack sheet A9 Pesky Plants and Animals helps you get the balance right. When removing ivy it’s important to work cautiously with hand tools so as not to damage the tree, using a tree contractor if climbing is involved. There can be bats and nesting birds within yews, particularly those with a thick growth of ivy; read sheet B3 Bats in the Belfry before doing anything which may disturb bats and avoid the bird nesting season.
- If a yew has been regularly trimmed then you can continue to trim it, if not do not start pruning, trimming or pollarding yews. Leaving them alone is the best management unless a tree expert specifies otherwise.
- If boughs are collapsing remember that they are able to then take root and regenerate. If they are causing a problem and cannot be allowed to collapse then prop them up. Do not prune them off without seeking advice. A good tree contractor or arborist will be able to help and advise.
- Keep the ground clear beneath your yew, removing railings, grass cutting piles and shrubs like holly, elder or hazel. One of the best things you can do is to mulch under yew trees. Use well composted wood chip or leaf mulch and spread it canopy wide. Make sure that the mulch is not touching the trunk. Mulch can be a few inches thick, replenish it every few years. Never fill the cavity of a veteran yew with rubbish, grass cuttings or use it as a storage space!
We have been working closely with the Church of England, Church in Wales and the Woodland Trust to make sure that yews and other veteran trees are identified so that people can look after them. Have a look at the Church Heritage Record and see if your churchyard has one; search for your church then click on the churchyard tab at the top of the page.
It’s really important to start by doing some planning coupled with consulting and discussion with your local community. The first sheet in our Action Pack guides you through developing your own management plan. Have a look at Action Pack sheet A1 Five Steps to Churchyard and Burial Ground Care to help you get started and create a realistic plan. We also have a short film Five Steps to Burial Ground Management so please have a look at that for an overview.
If your site pre dates 1945 it is likely that it hasn’t been fertilized or ploughed and will therefore already have a good mix of native perennial wildflowers. Before introducing anything the first thing to do is identify what you have. If you don’t have the skills to identify plants then ask around to see if there is someone local who would come and help with this, you don’t need to identify everything, no need for an expert! It helps with identification if the sward has been left to grow a bit longer so avoid cutting before taking a look. Don’t worry if you don’t have a local botany enthusiast, we have a way of getting an idea of how rich in wildflowers a burial ground is without identification. Our Botanical Companion helps you assess this by counting different plant types without needing to identify them.
Often when sites have only a few wild flowers it is because the grass clippings have been left to rot down, rather than raked and removed. The nutrients from this grass encourages quick growing grasses at the expense of the slower growing wild flowers. To get started have a look at a couple of our short videos, The Importance of Grassland and Grassland Management. Our Action Pack will help you get started, have a look at A2 Caring for Grassland, A3 Cutting Long Grass and Dealing with Grass Cuttings and A8 Creating a Wildflower Meadow and Helping Wildlife.
If you’d like to learn a little more about meadows as an inspiration then take a look at our Guide to Meadows and Wildflowers in Burial Grounds
Please do not be tempted to strip off the turf in order to add annual wildflower seeds such as poppies/cornflowers etc. If you do this you will be replacing the very special habitat you have. To increase the flowers, you just need to tweak the management. If you would like the colourful annuals then you could add these to your flower borders where the bees will love them just as much!
There are two main things to consider when addressing concerns of ‘things looking messy’
Firstly, managing in a way to prevent it looking messy.
Secondly, addressing people’s concerns and perception of what is ‘messy’ early on.
Let’s take the first one – Management
These are tips, not rules – all sites are unique!
All sites are different but there are some general guidelines.
Keep short or medium length grass against tarmac paths, around entrances to the burial ground and to the church or chapel. Mow regularly in areas containing recent graves, graves still being visited and around war graves. Mow paths through areas of long grass so it looks intentional and people can wander in and enjoy it. Having a plan helps, take a look at Action Pack sheets A1 Five Steps to Churchyard and Burial Ground Care and A2 Caring for Grassland which includes a section on where to have different lengths of grass.
Cut before the grass and flowers have turned brown – this prevents nutrients going back into the soil and avoids it looking unkempt late in the season. You will be cutting some flowers if you do this but be determined and go ahead! The grassland will be made up of perennial species (apart from if you have introduced yellow rattle) so you do not need to leave it to all set seed. Meadow management is basically traditional farming, a farmer will cut the meadow when the grass and wildflowers are still green and full of goodness, not when it has died back. As well as looking unkempt, your meadow area will actually become more flowery next year if you don’t leave it too late before cutting. Leaving it uncut for 3 spring or summer months is enough, don’t be tempted to leave it for longer.
Introducing the wildflower Yellow Rattle can help to keep the grass short and increase the amount of flowers, A8 Creating a Wildflower Meadow and Helping Wildlife gives you more information.
If you don’t think that long grass is for you then consider having medium grass which is cut regularly with a lawn mower but the cutting bar is always kept at its highest setting – usually 10cm/4inches above ground level. This way you still get the low growing flowers and it is of far more value than short grass. N.B. medium grass stays greener longer and needs less cuts so uses less fossil fuels as well. Perhaps you can have some of each, long and medium?
Now onto people’s concerns
If you are changing management, it is a good idea to consult people and let everyone know what is planned and why you want to change things. Do this BEFORE you get started. How about writing an article in parish magazines, putting temporary signs on site and chatting to people? Many groups tell us that they receive complaints from a few members of the community, who are disproportionally vocal and can sway decision making. If you can discuss plans with a cross-section of your community then you may get a more accurate understanding of people’s views and concerns.
You may think of things to do to reassure people that the site is actively managed rather than being neglected. Keeping on top of the weeding of a flower bed perhaps, or putting up some fresh welcoming posters on the notice board. Next, invite people to walk around the site with you and listen to their concerns and talk to them about why you are managing in a way that is sensitive to wildlife, as well as people. In general, complaints are born of anxiety and understanding what is going to happen helps to diffuse issues.
Make sure to pop a sign up in the long grass areas so people know why you are leaving it to grow long and when it will be cut. You can ask for volunteers too! For ideas on signage pop HERE
We’ve lots of resources to help you with this, please have a browse of our Action Pack sheets A1, A2, A3 and A8. For eager beavers we have more information in our Guide to Meadows and Wildflowers in Burial Grounds. Only got a few minutes to spare? Take a look at our short films The Importance of Grassland and Grassland Management.
We can’t have a meadow area but want to do our bit for wildlife – is there anything else you advise?
There are lots of ways to manage sensitively we have a lot of advice and ideas in our Action Pack, Section B Havens for Wildlife
Here are a few ideas:
- Create small wood piles for mammals and minibeasts.
- If you are planting a flower bed use nectar rich species particularly ones that flower in early spring or autumn when other nectar sources can be scarce.
- Consider putting up bird/bat boxes and bug hotels.
- Put a small container of water out in the hot weather.
- Monitor your wildlife and send in any wildlife records!
If you can’t leave your grass to grow long then consider changing your mowing regime from short to medium length grass. This is cut regularly (usually once a month) with the mower cutting bar at the highest setting, usually 10cm/4inches above ground level. This way you still get the low growing flowers and it is of far more value than short grass. N.B. medium grass stays greener longer and needs less cuts so uses less fossil fuels as well. Action Pack sheet A2 Caring for Grassland gives more information on medium grass.
In the first instance please prevent ivy growing on stonework as it will likely cover, shade and therefore kill important and sometimes rare lichen.
If ivy is already present and the stonework has joints, if left to grow it will damage the structure by getting in between the joints and prising them apart. If the ivy has not got in between the joints then try and remove it before it does. If the ivy has already got in between the joints of a monument then pulling it off is likely to pull the structure apart as it may be what is now holding it together. The same goes for ivy on stone walls. Therefore, unless you are able to undertake a large repair do not pull the ivy off, simply keep it well trimmed so that its impact is reduces as much as possible.
Ivy is less likely to damage stone work without joints such as a simple headstone, in fact it is protective, reducing erosion and damage to the stone from pollution. An exception to this could be on a stone without a good foundation if the ivy grows very large and heavy. Have a look at our case study Removing Ivy From Gravestones by English Heritage and Oxford University.
For further information on how and when to remove ivy please see our Action Pack sheet A9 Pesky Plants and Animals. Nesting birds such as wrens or dunnocks can use ivy on gravestones so avoid removal during the nesting season (March to July). Also avoid clearance during cold weather months as the sudden change in temperature could be damaging to the stone. Late summer and early autumn is the best time. Ivy is extremely beneficial to other wildlife so please let it grow on other structures such as old tree stumps and through hedges.
We have created two information sheets here that you should find useful to bring a team of volunteers together and maintain enthusiasm and momentum.
Have a look at Action Pack sheet D1 Involving Volunteers and also D7 Burial Grounds for All. These sheets will help you to set up and run activities and also help you make your burial ground more accessible to all. By bringing people in, you start to build relationships which can lead to more volunteers too.
We now have an online members’ area for CfGA members including individuals, groups and diocesan members. If you are already a member then you can watch two webinars from our autumn series in 2021 on this topic. If you are not yet a member then please join!
Yes, we have lots of resources to help. Burial grounds are perfect for school work and a great many different subjects can be covered. Our Education Pack contains 22 activity sheets with things to do within a burial ground and back in the classroom. It is linked to the National Curriculum for primary schools. It is available in English and Welsh and can be used by primary school teachers or anyone wanting to have some planned activities for children of that age group which might include cubs, brownies, messy church, children’s activities during fetes or celebrations. Please have a browse through this pack and share it with your local primary schools. English Education Pack and Welsh Education Pack.
If you, or a local teacher need convincing just how good these sites are for learning then have a look at our case study on Using the Education Pack with 8 and 9 Year Olds and watch our short film featuring a group of home-schooled children HERE.
For less formal learning we also have our Burial Ground Discovery Pack with different ideas for the four seasons.
For those of you getting involved with Love Your Burial Ground Week, (perhaps you are running an activity as part of Churches Count on Nature) then take a look at the children’s resources for this which are drawn from our Education Pack. Find them here; Children’s Activity Sheets
Churchyard and burial grounds are of supreme importance to lichen conservation and we would not recommend their removal. You may be removing something that has been growing for 100’s of years and isn’t found anywhere else locally! If you do need to remove some as part of renovations then please seek advice first from the British Lichen Society. We have an interesting case study of one group who managed to conserve the lichens while restoring their chest tomb HERE. If you want some more information on lichens and on learning to love them then we have resources, take a look at our Action Pack sheet B7 Learn About Lichens and for more information have a browse of our Guide to Lichens in Burial Grounds.
We have a short film on lichens featuring April Windle from the British Lichen Society which you can find HERE. Lichens can be interesting to children too, have a look at our Education Pack sheet Let’s Investigate Lichens.
Recording memorials can be a very enjoyable, rewarding experience. Even very worn and difficult gravestones often retain more than anticipated at first glance and will repay the effort taken to decipher them. We have teamed up with Professor Harold Mytum of University of Liverpool to produce the Discovering and Recording Gravestones guide, introducing the science of recording memorials which you can download, print out and take with you to your next visit to a burial ground to have a go yourself. Have a look at the Recording Memorials webpage to explore other resources on the social history and built heritage within burial grounds.
There is an exciting new initiative getting underway within Church of England churchyards; the National Burial Grounds Survey. All churchyards will be mapped by a company called Atlantic Geomatics over the next 7 to 10 years, giving a database of monuments with photographs of their inscriptions and also the relevant section from the death register. Have a look on the Atlantic Geomatics website for more information.
A great many other church or chapel yards have also been surveyed using this system, as have many of our larger urban cemeteries so it is worth asking church wardens and local authorities whether this has been done. There are also other systems for recording and displaying monument information. The United Reform Church, Brecon Beacons Pastorate have created THIS system, with monuments recorded under the graveyard tab for each chapel
We work across the UK from our base in Shropshire and we do not have regional offices or groups. There are some great projects and organisations supporting people on the ground across the UK and we will be making a list of these soon. In the meantime, you can seek local help from your Diocese, from local Friends groups, from a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Office if you are within one and from your county Wildlife Trust.
No, we are an independent, non-religious charity. We support people who are managing burial grounds of any denomination, religion or none. These range from small, Medieval churchyards to large, urban cemeteries. We do not receive core funding from churches or other religious organisations but rely instead on grants, donations and subscriptions from our fabulous members. As a result of this we do not have large reserves and spend considerable time raising funds. This keeps us delivering the services we do but it is not easy. Please consider becoming a member if you value the support that we provide by going to our Membership webpage.
By joining you or your group can enjoy increased support from our team, access to current and past webinars and be part of our online community.
You will also be directly supporting our conservation work across England and Wales.
As a member you will receive:
- A welcome pack including our stunning ‘Guide to Wildlife in Burial Grounds‘ Field Studies Council Chart, our popular ‘Starter Guide’ and a ‘Key to Unlock’ poster and a back issue of the Lychgate
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- An informative and inspiring newsletter twice a year
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