TWO organisations in Somerset are teaming up to help protect wildlife in local churchyards.

Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) and the Diocese of Bath & Wells are launching an initiative entitled 'Wilder Churches'.

They are aiming to support communities to protect biodiversity in their local churchyard.

Pippa Rayner, SWT's engaging with nature coordinator is organising the initiative.

“If we’re to reverse the loss of biodiversity across the UK and within the county, we need to secure a strong, county-wide network of green spaces that can provide homes for wildlife and corridors through which species can travel and expand," she said.

"Through Wilder Churches, we hope local people will help ensure churchyards and other church land can contribute to that network."

Somerset County Gazette: WILD: Priddy churchyard, near Wells. Pic: Somerset Wildlife Trust

Many churchyards support wildflower-rich grassland areas, ancient trees and other nooks and crannies that offer homes for invertebrates - food for birds, reptiles and mammals - and are home to many species of bat. Other churchyards, although ‘green’, support less biodiversity, but SWT believe is great potential to turn this around and help churchyards become special places for wildlife as well as for people.

Launching later this month, SWT and the Diocese of Bath & Wells will be hosting regular, free online training sessions to support communities and church leaders to help them learn more about churchyards and how they can manage them with wildlife in mind.

“Churchyards are really special and unique places, so we will be encouraging everyone to use the ‘3 Cs’ of consideration, consultation and communication at each step along the way," added Ms Rayner.

"Initially, we will encourage people to simply find out what wildlife their local churchyard already has, as well as talking to everyone already involved in its management.

"Through the ongoing online training, we will then support communities to identify ways they could help wildlife in their local churchyard, as well as to communicate their ideas, consult others and come up with a plan that works for the church, wildlife and the community.”

Somerset County Gazette: WILD: Priddy churchyard, near Wells. Pic: Somerset Wildlife Trust

The Diocese oversees 477 parishes of over 900,000 people, and they will be working with SWT on the initiative.

Sara Emmett, assistant diocesan environment officer said: “With the diocese embracing a new environmental policy, we are delighted to be working together with Somerset Wildlife Trust to support church leaders and communities to increase the value of churchyards and other church land for wildlife.

"By regularly getting together online to celebrate successes, share expertise and solve problems as they arise, we will collectively achieve so much more, so this is a really exciting initiative to be involved in.”

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