Churchyards across Norfolk and Waveney should be “places for the living, as well as the dead”, says the Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham Usher, who is seeking to raise their importance in terms of increasing biodiversity, across England.

The General Synod of the Church of England meets today to debate a Land and Nature Motion, seeking to give biodiversity equal consideration with net zero carbon, recognising the need to respond urgently to the ecological crisis.

The motion also addresses land and property owned by the Church, at parish, diocese and national level. Dioceses would be encouraged to develop a ‘Land’ action plan.

Eastern Daily Press:

A separate net zero carbon routemap was approved by General Synod in July 2022.

Bishop Graham said: “With this motion, we have the opportunity to demonstrate the Church’s responsibility to safeguarding God’s creation by adding commitments to be responsible stewards of the land to our existing Net Zero ambitions.

“There are around 17,500 acres of churchyards in England – that’s around twice the size of a City like Oxford. I want them to be places for the living as well as the dead.

“With these free programmes, church and local communities can answer this call straight away by counting species, planning mowing, regimes, allowing plants to flower and joining the Eco-Church scheme.

“The Church is also setting out clear commitments to be at the forefront of responsible investment and, in partnership with our tenants, responsible land ownership.”

“I hope Synod will vote strongly in favour of this motion and send a clear signal to those all around the country, and to Government, that responsible land stewardship is good for nature, good for business and good for people.”

New discoveries at Gaywood, King’s Lynn

Eastern Daily Press: Daphne Sampson at Gaywood

Daphne Sampson, Eco Church lead at St Faith’s, recalls the Churches Count on Nature event they held last June with all ages from across their church and local community.

People were invited to come and sit in the churchyard for 20 minutes and record all the plants, insects, birds and mammals that they saw. “We discovered a total of 55 species of flowering plants and 16 species of trees - a slightly higher total from last year with some exciting new finds such as– a green woodpecker, a chiffchaff, and even an owl.

“There was a lovely atmosphere at the event with people excitedly sharing their discoveries and puzzling together over the identification of some of the more obscure species. We felt truly blessed, not only to have such a rich and diverse habitat surrounding our church but also having a group of people who were so clearly enjoying the event.”

Wildflowers in Pakefield

Eastern Daily Press: Pakefield churchyard wildflower meadow

Over the past few years, a team of volunteers has been working hard in the churchyard of All Saints and St Margaret’s Church in Pakefield to create “a place of stillness and tranquillity, somewhere people can come to remember their loved ones, or just sit and contemplate, also somewhere that we can encourage wildlife too,” Mary Johnstone says.

“The wonderful cliff top location with the soothing sound of ‘the song of the nearby sea’ enhances this experience with this area of beautiful wildflowers.” This is now an ongoing project.