Amphibians & Reptiles
Amphibians and reptiles have a special place in the hearts of nature lovers – perhaps stemming from fond childhood memories of collecting tadpoles in jars, or the thrill of catching a glimpse of a lizard as it disappears into a stone wall. What could beat following the remarkable transformation of a clump of jelly-like frogspawn into tiny tadpoles which then sprout legs to become froglets?
Burial grounds are perhaps not an obvious place to find amphibians and reptiles, but the combination of tussocky grassland, sunny areas and old stonework makes them an ideal place for these shy creatures to feed, bask and shelter. They will often spend the winter hibernating or hiding in nooks, crannies and even old mouseholes around the site.
Reptiles may be present all year round, whereas amphibians need water in the spring in which to spawn. Burial grounds are rarely suitable places for a pond but there is likely to be a nearby garden or farm pond which the amphibians will visit in the spring to breed before returning to the sanctuary of the burial ground.
Sadly, populations of all of our amphibian and reptile species have declined since the 1960’s. This is mainly due to habitat loss through drainage, pollution, urban development, and agricultural intensification. The churchyard, however, has often escaped these changes and, with good management, will continue to provide them with a haven and ready food supply.
Amphibians and reptiles tend to be very secretive but your churchyard, or other burial ground, could well be home to these intriguing animals. You may come across them whilst carrying out maintenance on stonework, cutting grassland or accidently uncover them on a compost heap. On the left you can download information on the different species you may find together with help on their identification and an outline of their lifestyles. We explain how to look after and enhance the burial ground habitats for them and explore their links to Christianity, literature, and folklore.
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