The Wonderful Secrets of our Churchyards

Although usually places of sadness for many, the unspoilt nature of our churchyards, especially those that are left to grow a little wild, can be a source of great pleasure, interest and surprise! As part of Norfolk County Wildlife Action (a new Heritage Lottery-funded project), volunteers have been trained and supported by Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) to carry out plant surveys and create a habitat map for a specific County Wildlife Site or churchyard. At All Saints Church, Hemblington, a team of five local people has volunteered to be trained to try to understand and formally record the trees, shrubs, wild flowers, fungi, small mammals, birds, butterflies, moths, bugs, beetles and anything else we find in the churchyards at Hemblington.

Hemblington has been very fortunate in that the Blofield & District Conservation Group (BADCOG) has managed the southern area of the churchyard since 1985, in collaboration with the Parochial Church Council and NWT, and has surveyed and recorded what has been found there. In their “Site Handbook and Records 1983 – 2008” they state that it is deemed “to be an ancient hay meadow, which may have persisted since at least Anglo-Saxon times”. The list of wild flowers found there is impressive as are the numbers of butterflies and birds recorded. BADCOG manages the site as a traditional hay meadow, mowing at the end of June with an additional cut in late autumn.

The churchyard was much extended in 1953 when Mrs Cutler kindly donated land to the north of the church, which is currently being used for new interments. A small area to the north of the chancel also accommodates ashes and memorial stones. The remainder of this area is coarse grassland with abundant hogweed, but more recently has become better managed by volunteers from the local community. The Bure Valley Conservation Group (BVCG) a relatively new, fully constituted group who conducts a wide range of conservation work and wildlife preservation activities in the Bure Valley, has also helped to survey the site and has volunteered to cut and rake the area in August this year, in line with the NWT’s management plan.

We have copies of two surveys undertaken at Hemblington: the first, dated July 1982, undertaken by the Norfolk Naturalists Trust, details all the flora and fauna found at that time, with suggestions for future management. The second survey, dated June 2000, confirms how the two areas have flourished under such good management and both reports provide a sound basis for the surveys currently being undertaken. The new volunteer group with NWT support will provide a habitat report and list of flora and fauna identified between May – September 2016 and it is hoped that an exhibition of all these findings will be prepared and displayed at the church in due course.

If anyone locally would like to help with the twice yearly raking and general clear up in the churchyard, do please let us know, as it is a large area to manage and help will be much appreciated.

This is an aspect of assisting the church that The Friends of All Saints group is looking to support as part of its aim to conserve, maintain and improve the fabric of the church and its grounds, so that it is in good order for future generations to enjoy. If you would like to find out more about the Friends group, please see the Friends page of this website or email: Hemblington@gmail.com