Living Churchyards and Cemeteries

Churchyards can be rich wildlife havens.

The national 'Living Churchyards and Cemeteries' scheme wants local communities to get involved in the management of their churchyards for the benefit of wildlife as well as the local congregation, visitors and the bereaved.

Churchyards have many habitats which can be managed sympathetically for wildlife:

  • areas of grassland for wildflower meadows
  • patches of woodland, walls, hedges, shrubs
  • gravestones with rare or unusual lichen species.
  • sites can be further enhanced for wildlife by the provision of appropriately sited bird and bat boxes, and woodpiles.

The Dorset scheme

The Dorset project started in 1996 and over 100 parishes have since become involved.

For those starting out, Living Churchyards Packs are available from DWT.  These contain a series of leaflets with information on different aspects of management for wildlife in churchyards, plus some past newsletters.

Ideally an initial survey should be undertaken to establish what habitats and species already exist in the churchyard.   A brief management plan can then be drawn up, based on what is desired for different areas.

On average 30-35 churches have taken part in the annual ‘competition’ in the past.  The 'Best Overall' receives a cash prize, kindly donated each year by the Bishop of Salisbury and all entrants receive attractive certificates for display.

Since 2013 we have changed the scheme from a competition to a “Wildlife-friendly Churchyard Award”.  There is now much less emphasis on 'winners' but more on advice and sharing of tips, and, rather like the Chelsea Flower Show, certificates can be received with a Bronze, Silver or Gold mark.

Assessment and advisory visits take place during the summer. Assessors are happy to talk to representatives of the local churchyard groups and to provide some advice in the course of their visits.They also provide a brief written report to the parish following the visit describing the highlights of what they have seen and offering recommendations for future work.

Presentations are made at an annual meeting with a speaker and forum for the interchange of ideas. An annual newsletter in March provides some useful information, together with the programme for the year.

The prize-giving this year will take place at Brooklands Farm on Saturday 26th September from 10am to 12.30pm.


Download a copy of our 2017 PDF newsletter here

Help needed

We are constantly looking for new judges to help our teams.  If you would be interested in getting involved, or for further information, please contact:

Dorset Wildlife Trust at 01305 264620

Church of the Transfiguration Canford Cliffs

Bank planted with flowering plants to attract butterflies and other insects, plus bird feeding station at the Church of the Transfiguration, Canford Cliffs, Poole.

Signs at Milton Abbas

Signs explaining the manage-ment in an area of Milton Abbas churchyard. Such information is important to explain to the public why certain management is taking place

Bee Orchid at Holworth - T Bates

A spike of Bee Orchid in the sward at Holworth Church on the cliffs near Ringstead


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