Wildlife conservation at St Marys Churchyard Shotesham
Coordinator for Conservation Group: Raz Woollacott
Overview: A fine wildflower site especially important for the pyramidal orchids. There has been a tradition for some years now of Conservation Group arranging work groups which are always well attended by volunteers. The site is managed in close cooperation with the PCC.
Amended Management Plan for 2015: (following meeting between PCC (JT, RH, RC) and Conservation Group (RW, FM) on 5th June 2014)
Approach. The PCC remain in favour of a significant proportion of the churchyard being managed for wildlife conservation, particularly for wildflowers. At the same time they want it to be obvious to users of the church and churchyard that this is a deliberate and managed plan and not just a matter of neglect. The following plans are aimed at achieving this balance:
The main drive: The long triangular border to the left of the path when facing the church, will be kept mown. The wildlife interest is relatively small here and keeping it mown will enhance the “cared for” appearance of this area. The Conservation group will do an initial cut and then hand over to the PCC. In the spring the PCC will need to decide whether to cut from the time of first growth or to leave it until the Pheasants-eye Narcissi have bloomed and had time to regenerate. However as there are very many of these Narcissi across the whole of the old graveyard area this may not be too contentious.
In a similar vein, the border to the right of the path will be kept mown to a width of about 2 meters (one mower’s width behind the rose bushes). This will be neat and also demonstrate that the uncut area behind is deliberate policy.
The old graveyard area. Apart from the 2 areas described above, the whole of the old graveyard area will be managed as a wildflower meadow by the Conservation Group. It will not be cut (and raked) until August each year. If it can be arranged, it will then be grazed by sheep. The existing wide mown path around the church will be maintained by the PCC. Some paths will be cut through the wildflower area to allow some access to visitors. Initially these will be cut by the Conservation group and thereafter maintained by the PCC. Addition for 2015: Bob Harris will strim the area close to the hedge where Blackthorn tends to sucker.
The back (i.e. the north) of the church: This area is in 3 parts at the moment. There is a wildflower meadow to the east of the modern graves. This is the prime site for Pyramidal Orchids and will continue to be managed as at present. The next part is the modern graveyard which is maintained by the PCC and kept mown. This is important for families visiting graves and the mowing regime will continue.
The third part consists of a wide strip of wildflower meadow which is steadily improving and will continue to be managed by the Conservation Group, and then a band, up to the brick wall which is more problematic as it is in poor condition, probably highly fertile and full of nettles. The plan is to manage this in such a way that over a number of years it can be improved and gradually added to the adjacent wildflower band. This will be achieved by regular mowing and raking once a month in the growing season by the Conservation Group until the nettles no longer grow and the soil becomes less fertile. Adjacent to this area on the north boundary is the “compost heap” which will be retained and built up mainly for the benefit of the Slow Worms (a threatened species throughout the country). The existing uncut area on the northern boundary will be maintained as it is, whilst the small area of rough vegetation to the south of the compost heap (and around the Elderflower trees) will be cut back by the Conservation Group and it can then be kept trimmed.
Communication: R W will prepare a couple of notices to explain the plan briefly to visitors, and a copy (or precis) of the management plan will be posted in the church to explain the fuller picture.