Churchyards provide vital green and quiet space, as well as vital homes for endangered species in some areas. The diocese encourages churches to explore simple ways to use your churchyard to create a haven for wildlife, for heritage, and for people.


Blessing Butterfly, Bee and Nectar garden at St Peter’s Church, Brimpton.

In many urban areas the churchyard is often the only ‘green lung’ for the community and the rural churchyard can often be a haven of biodiversity surrounded by acres of chemical-drenched monoculture. If all our churchyards were placed side by side and end to end they would form a huge national park open for all to share producing a festival of wildlife and nature.

Cherishing Churchyards Week

Churches across the country celebrate Cherishing Churchyards Week every year in June as part of the nationwide project run by Caring for God’s Acre (CfGA) and supported by this diocese and the national CofE Shrinking the Footprint project. There are an estimated 12,000 CofE churchyards throughout the country and around half of them already run biodiversity projects, while remaining respectful to their users, particularly family and friends of those buried there. During Cherishing Churchyards Week churches are encouraged to run events to raise awareness and celebrate the treasures of their churchyard, and encourage churches to submit wildlife discoveries as part of a new central database which will list all the biodiversity churchyards are holding in store for the country.

Caring for God’s Acre – Churchyard Action Pack

This resource has a wealth of information to help with the sensitive management of your churchyard. There are guidelines on the management of wildlife habitats such as grassland and trees, and features such as lychgates, boundary walls and old stonework. It also includes information on how to involve others and how to make use of these places for learning and community activity.

It is available to buy or download from the Caring for God’s Acre website.

Swifts and Chruches

Swift numbers in Britain have decreased by up to 40% in the last 20 years. Swifts return to the same nest hole every year, and so when buildings need repair or are demolished, nest sites can be lost. Also, almost without exception modern buildings do not have the gaps and crevices which are essential for Swifts to nest. So largely it is older, less well-sealed buildings with a few gaps under the eaves or tiles or in the pointing, which are favoured by Swifts – like some of our churches. Find out more…

Causing a buzz at St Thomas’s

Find out about how one church yard in central Oxford is being used to keep bees. Read more…

Advice about ash trees

If you have responsibility for a churchyard or any other wooded area, or you live in a property provided by the Diocese that has ash trees, you need to inspect your trees for Chalara fraxinea or “ash die-back”. Read more…

A case study from St Mary and St John Church in East Oxford.

Churchyard Case Study - St Mary & St John Oxford2This is the story of turning a churchyard that had become a forest of overgrown trees and tangled undergrowth, convenient for prostitution and drug taking, to be a much appreciated quiet green space in the middle of a busy urban area. Its maintenance has also become an important partnership between the church and others in the local community, and the churchyard is now an educational resource on wildlife and local history.

Download the Churchyard Case Study – St Mary & St John Oxford