Churches Count on Nature – FAQs

If you are interested in gathering wildlife records as part of Churches Count on Nature week, the following frequently asked questions will help you to understand how to go about it.

Throughout Saturday 5th June to Sunday 13th June 2021.

You can plan:

  • An organised one-off event, perhaps for one morning or afternoon OR
  • A series of short counts, perhaps at different times of day to spot different things and suit different people, OR
  • Simply open your churchyard throughout the week for people to explore.

It’s up to you!

This is a celebratory week which has been running for several years. Caring for God’s Acre has been encouraging all of you 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 and abseiling teddy bears!  Churches Count on Nature is part of Love Your Burial Ground Week, focusing on the brilliant wildlife to be found in churchyards.

The key thing is that you take part! 

Please register with Churches Count on Nature if you are planning to do something connected with nature and recording wildlife, and Love Your Burial Ground if you are planning something else such as a history activity or just a general open day. It won’t matter if you get this wrong, just please fill in the form so we can contact you with more information and with our logos.

This is a partnership project open to all churches and run by: 

  • A Rocha UK - the registered charity behind the Eco Church Programme
  • The Church in Wales
  • The Church of England Environment Programme, and 
  • Caring for Gods Acre - the registered charity which helps you care for your churchyard.

  • Engaging your church and local community in nature through counting wildlife in churchyards
  • Increases people's interest in your churchyard
  • Recording the species you see in your churchyard and participate in a national survey which counts wildlife in churchyards and beyond. 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 at: https://www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk/resources/films/ 
  • Provide the basis for action to encourage more wildlife into the churchyard

Encouraging further action at home or in the local area (eg. growing wild-flowers, creating ponds, food growing areas, bird boxes and feeder stations)

At this stage, you are just registering your interest. This does not commit you to anything.  We understand that the changing COVID regulations make it hard to plan ahead. Nearer the time, we will ask you for more information.

Taking part involves you in some way opening your churchyard to the local community, to identify and register the wildlife and plants that they find there onto the National Biodiversity Network database. 

The nature of your own CCoN 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 open your gates, 
  2. whether you decide to to advertise it to the public or keep it private to the church community,
  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. 

If you are running a small organised event, it could be led and run by volunteers from the church, such as the eco church group or youth group, or by a community group such as a local school or wildlife trust. In this case you will need to give permission to run the event at the church.  Whoever is organising it is likely to need at least 2-3 organisers who will be happy to plan, promote and keep a record of plants and animals spotted on the day.

Your Churches Count on Nature activity can be as big or as small as you wish, whilst staying within the relevant COVID regulations and your own risk assessment. 

So for example you might;

  • Speak to your local Wildlife Trust or RSPB group, tell them about CCoN and ask them if they would like to lead an outdoor workshop in your churchyard during CCoN week.  Your role could be as simple as unlocking the gate, or you might run it together.
  • Arrange a morning where people from the church gardening group identify wild plants and send in their records.
  • Suggest to local schools that they could bring groups of pupils to the churchyard, and put up signage next to plants and trees that the children can spot. 
  • Put a sign on your gate, and a notice in the local parish newsletter saying it is Churches Count on Nature week and that all are welcome to enter the churchyard, and write down what they see on a board in the porch. Alternatively people can email wildlife@cfga.org.uk with their own sightings - see the Share your Records page for options on how to send these in.

You will need to carry out a simple risk assessment for your own churchyard.  Please have a look at this information sheet to help you prepare your own risk assessment. The most common risk is people tripping over tree roots or graves and kerbs.

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. 

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 with Churches Count on Nature.  

Then what you spend locally on your own event 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 (in a COVID safe way). 
  • 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. 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 info@cfga.org.uk 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.

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/ 

Once you register your interest, we will send you an information pack with the FAQs here plus extra information about what to do on the day itself. 

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, or a local wildlife trust / nature group
  • 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 5th-13th June 2021?  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, and how will you clear them between use? Clipboards, magnifying glasses, identification sheets, bug pots, paper, pens or tablets.
  • Who will be in charge of sending caring for God's Acre the list of all the fabulous things you've seen?

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. 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 iRecord (www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk/get-involved/recording-2/share-your-records/), email a written list to wildlife@cfga.org.uk 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 listed below. 

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

  • Apps to download include: RSPB bird song identifier; PlantSnap; I-naturalist; European ladybirds.
  • Field Study Council charts. These are not free, but are very good and affordable. If you wish to purchase any please the visit the Field Study Council website at: https://www.field-studies-council.org/shop/ 
  • If you wish to make use of local experts your Local Record Centres might know of local experts/volunteers who could help. There are many natural history interest groups with local branches including the Botanical Society, 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
  • Some participants may have their own species identification books which can be encouraged to be brought along, as well as personal binoculars and hand lenses or magnifying glasses. 

Currently it is expected that by early June the country we will be at “step 3” - allowing up to 30 people maximum at an outdoor activity, abiding by social distancing measures.

You will need to carry out a risk assessment, and put sensible measures in place.  For example you might decide to, 

  • ensure people stand on the other side of a table from an outdoor workshop leader, who lays out samples to look at one-by-one.
  • limit numbers through a booking system.
  • create a one way flow around the churchyard. 

Recording species onto the National Biodiversity Network 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 funding applications.  And the information flows through to the church’s record on the online Church Heritage Record. 

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

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 Churches Count on Nature week 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 iRecord, email a written list to wildlife@cfga.org.uk 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/

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 iRecord system it adds the Latin name automatically!

During Churches Count on Nature Week the Church of England are running a series of webinars on a range of topics, from climate change to churchyard management, Forest Church, surveying of monuments and 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 https://www.churchofengland.org/about/environment-and-climate-change/webinars-land-and-nature-churches-count-nature-week  and book onto as many of the webinars as you would like. It looks set to be a fascinating week.