Churches Count on Nature, is a citizen-science event covering churchyards across the England and Wales.  It will run between Saturday 5th and Sunday 13th June 2021.

It is thought church land, often uniquely unploughed and undeveloped, could be a habitat for precious and endangered plants and other wildlife. 

During the week people are encouraged to visit churchyards and record the animals, birds, insects, or fungi that they see in their local churchyard. Everyone is encouraged to take part – whether they are nature experts or not.  The data will then be collated on the National Biodiversity Network.

The project is being jointly run by the conservation charities Caring for God’s Acre and A Rocha UK in association with the Church of England, and the Church in Wales. 

The week is open to anyone with a love of nature and churches are being encouraged to link with local schools, local wildlife groups, and those who may not have visited before to discover churchyards.

Various online guidance about getting to know fauna and flora are being shared with churches participating to make sure the event is as inclusive as possible.

A similar national event, Love Your Burial Ground Week, will be combined with this project. 

Churches Count on Nature will also see a series of webinars from leading conservationists, scientists, and experts. The full list of webinars is below and links are provided to book (they can also be found on the Church of England website):

Monday 7th June noon to 1pm: Nature and Climate, twin crises, shared solutions

Speaker: Pete Brotherton, Director of Science, Natural England, and Diocesan Environment Officer, Peterborough Diocese. 

Monday 7th June 4-5pm: Forest Church

Speakers: Cate Williams is Environmental Engagement Officer for Gloucester Diocese, a Forest Church facilitator and author of the Grove booklet on Forest Church. Rachel Summers is the author of multiple resources including Wild Advent, Wild Lent and Wild Worship. She is a Forest School practitioner and trainer, Forest Church facilitator and pioneer ordinand.

Monday 7th June 6-7pm: National Burial ground Survey

Speaker: Dr Joe Elders, Head of Church Buildings Strategy, Cathedral and Church Buildings, Church of England

Tuesday 8th June noon-1pm: Finding our faith in trees

Speaker: John Rodwell works as a priest and ecologist together.  He is co-author of Creating New Native Woodlands and chair of the Land & Biodiversity Group of Diocesan Environmental Officers.

Tuesday 8th June 4-5pm: Five steps to good management of your churchyard or burial ground

Speaker: Andrea Gilpin works for Caring for God’s Acre and leads on advising people in managing their burial ground, along with developing and delivering projects. Her background is in ecology.

Wednesday 9th June noon-1pm: Practical examples from Bristol Diocese of churchyards managed for nature

Speaker: Clare Fussell, the Diocese Environment Officer for Bristol Diocese is joined by a panel of local church representatives.

Wednesday 9th June 4-5pm: Blooming and beautiful – Flower rich grasslands

Speaker: Andrea Gilpin works for Caring for God’s Acre and leads on advising people in managing their burial ground, along with developing and delivering projects. Her background is in ecology.

Wednesday 9th June 6-7pm: Bats in churches

Speaker: Claire Boothby is the training and surveys officer for the Bats in Churches project of which the Church of England is a partner. She sits within the Bat Conservation Trust and is hoping to get as many members of the public involved in surveying their churches for bats over the summer as possible. She’s also working hard to upskill existing volunteers and professionals within the bat worker sector to specialise in working with churches to make sure that the sensitivities caused by bats living in churches are well understood and mitigation measures are realistic and workable as a result 

Thursday 10th June noon to 1pm: Devon Living Churchyards project

Speaker: David Curry is the Exeter Diocese Environmental Adviser (voluntary) and manages the Devon Living Churchyards Project. Is chair of the Devon Churches Green Action Group.

Thursday 10th June 4-5pm: Eco Church – Land and Nature

Speakers: Helen Stephens and Andy Lester from A Rocha UK, who run the Eco Church Programme. Helen is their Church Relations Manager and Andy is their Head of Conservation

Friday 11th June noon to 1pm: A beginner’s Guide to Biodiversity and Ecology

Speaker: Godfrey Armitage is the Diocesan Environment Officer for the Diocese of Coventry; he taught Ecology and Conservation at Warwick University for some years and is a tutor for the Christian Rural and Environmental Studies (CRES) Certificate. 

Friday 11th June 4pm: Biological recording and the beautiful burial ground project

Speaker: Harriet Carty is the Director of the conservation charity Caring for God’s Acre. She is an ecologist with experience in land management for people and wildlife.

The Bishop of Reading, Olivia Graham, who sits on the Church of England’s Environmental Working Group, said: “Together, churchyards cover a huge area –estimated to be equivalent to a small national park. 

“I would strongly encourage churches to sign up to Churches Count on Nature. 

“It is simple to join in and there is plenty of guidance for churches, organisers, and participants online.

“We read in the Gospels that Jesus was deeply rooted in his natural surroundings, the rhythm of the agricultural seasons, the lilies of the field, the birds of the air.  

“As Christians, we notice and celebrate the beauty and rich diversity of God’s creation. And from our thankful hearts flows our deep desire to care for and protect it.” 

This article was published on Wednesday 14th April 2021.