Wednesday, 24 May 2017

May 2017 Session

A few photos from the May session:

Yellow Rattle

Something caught my eye...

...one of our wild strawberry plants in flower.

Solomon's Seal

Pignut. This is a great surprise because from one plant a couple of years ago, it appears
to be self-seeding in different locations of the churchyard.

Little robin. While similar to Herb Robert, it has smaller flowers and yellow, rather than orange, pollen.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

2017 Session dates:

March 18
April 15
May 20
June 10
July 1 & 22
August 12
September 9
October 14
November 18

To contact our co-ordinators, click through to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust website

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Parish Life - February 2017

I was very interested to read a recent article in the Saturday Guardian by Alys Fowler. In it, she was advocating a messy garden over the winter, to provide a place for insects, especially butterflies and moths, to hibernate. The “old stems, dead leaves, spent seedheads, winter weeds, dying growth” all provide a “winter duvet that protects insects and their pupae and larvae, and that stops the precious top layer of soil being washed away by winter rains and harsh winds.” Personally, I don’t need much of an excuse to leave the garden alone during the winter months. I would much rather look at the frosted landscape and sit inside, in front of a warm fire, whilst planning my seed order from the inviting pictures in the garden catalogues.

We do have a “messy garden” approach in the churchyard. Work is suspended from December until March and we designate an area each year to be left untouched, at least for part of the growing season as well. This is a deliberate way of imitating nature but this patch may look rather unkempt to visitors and locals, who might be expecting to see a neatly regimented and tidy graveyard. Our argument needs no defence; records show that biodiversity is in decline and any extra spot that will act as a haven of undisturbed refuge for a variety of fauna has to be encouraged.

That is not to say that we do not have a plan for the rest of the churchyard as well and this is reviewed and discussed at our annual AGM. This will take place on Monday 13th February at 7.00 p.m. in the Plough, Kington St.Michael. Attendees are welcomed with a free drink, before we get down to business. We would be very pleased to see some new faces joining the meeting, as new ideas are always welcome. Hope to see you there!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Parish Life - August 2016

We were very lucky to have a newcomer to the working party in July. A young man had seen the advert for the Living Churchyard session at St. Giles in the Wiltshire Wildlife magazine. He was a welcome addition to the team, working very hard and enjoyed a guided tour of the area around the church from Ivan, who explained the rationale behind the different planting areas and pointed out some of the more exotic species that we have growing. One plant that I had not seen before was the Crow Garlic, a member of the Allium family, growing by one of the gravestones.

When we stopped for our usual break, our new arrival told us about his visit to Africa with a charity that tracks desert elephants and works with communities there. He had helped to build a wall around a village water source to protect it from damage by the elephants and he had seen calves and Bull elephants and all sizes in between. He was planning to return to Namibia this September and carry on with his work and I found myself envying his experiences with such mighty animals.

Then I thought about the work that we do in our churchyard and realised that, on a much smaller scale, it is equally important to provide habitats for our wildlife. True, it may not be as exciting as seeing a huge elephant tramping through the bush, but having areas where Field mice and Common shrews can roam, and seeing Small Heath and Common Blue butterflies in action is almost as good!

Who knows what we might discover next? If you would like to be part of our practical session in maintaining the churchyard as a haven for wildlife, please join us on Saturday 13th August, 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon. We are happy to show newcomers how we carry out our management programme. Tools and gloves, and refreshments will be available. Please come and enjoy a session looking after your local environment!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

2016 Session Dates


March 12
April 16
May 21
June 11
July 2
July 23
August 13
September 10
October 15
November 19

To contact our co-ordinators, click through to the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust page.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Parish Life - November 2015



November brings our last working session of the year and we DESPERATELY need hands to help clear the compost that has built up over the raking season.  This call goes out to all able-bodied persons and if you can only come for this one event of the year, you would be welcomed with open arms!  I promise hot chocolate and a glorious chocolate cake as an inducement!  

We cannot use the compost that builds up over the year, as wild flower growth and meadow grasses thrive on depleted soil.  Each mowing session, all the grass is raked up and piled onto the heap.  At the end of the year, the resulting compost is moved by tractor trailer to a location on the Buckley Barracks grounds.

But it cannot move on its own, so this requires a team to transfer the compost to wheelbarrows, then to the trailer, where it is forked or tipped away.  The more folk we have to help, the less arduous the task will be.  It is certainly a good way to warm up the body and get some exercise if the weather has turned cold.

November will bring a feeling of a closing-down as Nature prepares for the winter season.  There will still be some activity in the churchyard, with birds feeding on berries and fungi visible under the trees. Most of the leaves will have fallen as the trees have drawn in the nutrients.  Rather like a bruise changing colour as the body heals itself, the changing autumn colours are a result of the tree breaking down the food held inside each leaf, which it then absorbs.  Each leaf stalk is then closed off by a small seal, and the leaf falls to the ground.  Although some gardeners compost leaves, they contain very little in the way of food for growing plants.  However, they are an excellent mulch and add humus to the soil.

Come along to join us on Saturday 21st November, 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon.  Tools and gloves, and refreshments will be available.  Please come and enjoy a session looking after your local environment!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Practical Session Report - July 2015

Creeping Jenny
Today was a wonderfully sunny, if rather hot session. Again we had more plants in flower than I had rows on my recording form (note to self: improve recording form)!


We had some more visitors today, including a lovely lady from Corston, a village that's a little less than 4 miles north of St Giles. I advised a good dose of yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) for the small meadow she'd like to incorporate into the churchyard there.

Speaking of yellow rattle, it's been a wonderful year for it at our churchyard. We have three patches of long grass that have yellow rattle and I recorded two of them last year. The first patch increased from 75 to 95, with the other patch increasing from 64 to 178. This will, in part, be due to the additional seed we sowed last year - a simple process of throwing it on the grass and stylishly attempting to tread it into the ground.

Sue spotted a new plant to the churchyard, but it was Ivan who suggested the correct identification immediately (Sue and I weren't sure because the book we were using didn't quite match, but later research did agree with Ivan's assessment). This new comer is one of at least 300 species in its genus and is most likely common skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata). It is particularly appropriate due to the monuments that include skulls on the tombstones and within the church - and can apparently be used for herbal tea.


Earlier I keyed out an umbel that Sue and I spotted to be ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria). I was surprised that on our original flora list circa 1998, we had an entry for ground elder. Therefore We've either missed it for 4 years in a row, or it's making a good come back with the appearance of 5 or 6 plants all in the tomb area of the churchyard (as Sue pointed out to me on the phone; it's probably the former).

Sadly my family and I won't be able to attend the next session, Saturday 25 July, but the team will be there. So, feel free to join them if you're in the area. Tea and biscuits, the staple of all conservation activities, will be provided!