St Edmund’s Church in Crickhowell is one of a host of churchyards and cemeteries which will be celebrating their wildlife in a week-long event in June.

From wildflowers to insects, birds and mammals, all creatures great and small have found a haven in the UK’s burial grounds for centuries as the land has been largely undisturbed.

During Love Your Burial Ground Week and Churches Count on Nature everyone is invited to explore these special places and help survey what they find.

The week, which takes place June 8-16, is organised by Caring for God’s Acre and is supported by the Church in Wales, the Church of England and A Rocha UK. Events taking place range from biodiversity ‘nature counts’ in churchyards, to memorial recording and tours in urban cemeteries. People can join in recording the wildlife they find using the iNaturalist app. There will also be a series of webinars during the week that anyone can join.

Harriet Carty, Director of Caring for God’s Acre explains how participating can lead to tangible change.

"Over the past three years, 1,300 events have taken place, involving more than 24,500 participants and resulting in 37,355 wildlife records being submitted. In addition to hosting events that unveil local history, discovering the wildlife in burial grounds has prompted tangible improvements. Communities have taken decisive action, installing boxes for visiting swifts, placing boxes in hedgerows where dormice have been recorded, and adjusting cutting regimes to allow wildflowers to flourish.”

The Archbishop of Wales, Andrew John, is inviting churches to take part. He says, “We are blessed with churchyards rich in plant and animal life and this is something to celebrate and to nurture. Churches Count on Nature during Love Your Burial Ground week in June is an easy and fun way to do just that. I encourage our churches to get involved - hold an event, invite the neighbours and explore the natural treasures all around us. And when we record our discoveries we are adding to the national picture of the state of our wildlife and in so doing, helping to protect it for future generations.”

Helen Stephens, Church Relations Manager at A Rocha UK, warns that nature is under threat. She says, “We have rich and stunning nature in the UK, but much of it is under threat like never before. There is a significant role for us to play in our churches and on church land in helping protect and restore nature.

“A great first step is to discover and delight in what’s on our church doorstep(s) by counting, for example, plants, insects, birds, mammals, or any other aspect of nature that we may not stop to notice but which we rely on in so many ways. Whether it’s the Common Daisy or more exotic-sounding Spotted flycatcher, we’d love to know what you see to help build a fuller picture of what can be found – and cared for – on church land. You don’t need to be an expert, and it’s a fun activity to do in your community with others, especially children. It’s open to churches of all denominations, so why not get involved?”

The Rt Revd Graham Usher, the Church of England’s lead bishop for the environment, says, “I hope many congregations will take part in Love Your Burial Ground Week and Churches Count on Nature. It is a great way to engage local people with the biodiversity around them, as well as offer a missional invitation to become involved with the life of their local church. Last year I particularly enjoyed finding out about some of the colourful rare lichens that grow on gravestones. These wonderful species are all part of God’s rich creation, reminding us that churchyards are places of the living, not just the dead!”