You may have seen earlier in the year the “Churches Count on Nature” initiative. This involved walking the Churchyard to try and identify the wildlife and plants living there. Flower-rich lowland meadows and pastures were once a feature of every farm, but only a tiny fraction remain today. Much of the loss has been recent (97% since 1935) and is due to changes in farming, including the use of artificial fertilisers, changes in cutting regimes (with a move from summer hay to earlier silage cutting) and drainage, as well as abandonment. Churchyards are often a local remnant having been largely undisturbed. All Saints is a typical example, with the recent survey finding over 100 plant species, added to which are a wide variety of insects including the likes of Long Horn beetle which was photographed during the survey.
The Churchyard at All Saints has been managed for wildlife for well over 20 years with the area under management slowly increasing to about 80% today. I am a regular visitor so have the delight to watch it over the seasons with aconite and snowdrops as the first players in January then a succession of flowers including the pretty white Meadow Saxifrage, and we are lucky to have a thriving population which was once common in fields but now is only to be found in the main in Churchyards.
Then comes June/July and the orchids! This year has been a real surprise! Where once we would have about 10 plants, this year it is over 100! The vast majority are the Pyramidals but also a few Bee Orchids as well.
Another resident once common is the Harebell. Itsdelicate, nodding bells are one of the prettiest additions to our grasslands. Flowering between July and September, the harebell mostly grows on dry, undisturbed ground, which is very typical of the ground of the All Saints Churchyard.
I have been on the Village Facebook page about the Orchids which have been an absolute delight this year. I have no idea why these flower populations vary quite so much from year to year but I am sure that the weather over the winter and spring has an effect and I wonder this year if our cold wet spring might be responsible for the orchids.
There are not just great displays in the church yard of course. Those of you who regularly travel the A47 around Norwich will have seen a wonderful population of the yellow spikes of Hoary Mullein, whilst often growing there, but have never seen in such numbers. Ten years ago it was only found locally on the A14 around Bury St Edmunds.
The church yard at this time of year is a real treasure trove of wildlife from the huge variety of wild flowers, to bug life and birds. So well worth a wander around as there is always something new to be seen or heard.