Cemeteries often have nice grassland with a good diversity of plants because they are quite often old habitat that’s never been cultivated or had any chemicals on it.
This informal survey was undertaken by our knowledgeable friend Will Hirstle (Clarity Interpretation.com). Big thank you to Will for this informal and very useful report (clarityinterpretation.com/) which we will update if we spot something new or unusual.
There are some great resources HERE to help us complete further nature surveys (when the lockdown is finished) – perhaps we can get local children involved too – I hope so.
Slowworm Survey: F&HDC is doing an informal slowworm survey to gain an understanding of how many, or if any, slowworms are habituated in the old cemetery. (late 2020) – read more here.
An Informal Wildlife Survey (June 2017 – 23)
Grassland and plants The grassland here was quite nice, quite diverse. The ox-eye daisy was the obvious feature when I was there, which is good to see. I noted about 25 species of plant. The only thing of note was wild asparagus – I only saw the 1 plant. It’s probably a garden escape as it usually only grows naturally on sand dunes (you can see it at Sandwich Bay). Bit of a mystery how it got there really! Other things worth a mention – shamrock, bird’s-foot trefoil, forget-me-not. (edit 5/6/2020: spotted at a later visit – Pyramid orchid, Bee orchid and wild Daffodil) You do have ragwort there – this can be an invasive, problem species (edit 5/6/2020: mares tail – invasive weed spotted in section 18). I liked the way not all the grassland had been mown and some areas left to flower.
Birds The cemetery seems to be a good habitat for a variety of common birds. Here’s what I recorded: •Green woodpecker •Robin •Jackdaw (lots of these) •Blackbird •Magpie •Wren •House martin •Chaffinch •Wood pigeon •Blackcap •Starling •Sparowhawk (spotted Jan 2022 and Jan 2023 too)
Of these, house martin is now on the amber list (declining) so if you find it is nesting in the eves of that building please don’t destroy nests. There will be other species, some breeding.
Butterflies and other insects I was expecting to see more butterflies, but only saw: •Common blue •Speckled wood •Dragonflies (spotted Oct 2020)
I’m sure there will be other species there. Lots of bees and hoverflies around, lots of nectar sources. I’m sure there will also be lots of beetles, flies, moths etc. Hard to get an idea from such a brief visit. Look hard enough and you’d probably find something scarce!
Mammals Lots of rabbits by the railway embankment. You’re bound to have foxes coming in though I didn’t see any signs of them. There will be plenty of small mammals – wood mice, bank voles, shrews etc. No signs of badgers. Cemeteries are often good places for bats because they often have old trees. That’s perhaps less the case here as it’s a relatively new cemetery but I could see maybe pipistrelles feeding here.
Reptiles Didn’t see any but looking at the habitat, I’d be amazed if there are no slow worms there. Probably common lizards too. **Common Lizards spotted on a subsequent visit.
Lichens One thing that cemeteries are often good for is lichens – they like to grow on the gravestones. I saw plenty of lichens while I was there but wouldn’t know if any are rare – this is a very specialist thing.
Grassland – keep allowing some areas to grow long and flower. The areas that are left can change each year on a cycle. Best not to leave any areas uncut for more than a few years as that’s when buddleia and other scrub takes hold.
Buddliea removal – as long as you leave areas of grassland to flower, there will be plenty of nectar sources for insects, so I wouldn’t worry about removing most or all of the buddliea. If working in spring and summer, dense stands should be inspected for nesting birds.
Ragwort – I didn’t see huge amounts, but might be worth removing it now before it becomes a problem, as part of management. Best way is to pull it up before it sets seed (July?).
Reptiles – as we discussed, might be worth trying to confirm their presence. All reptiles are protected by law and you probably have them at this site. Keep rough areas you already have, e.g. by the railway. This will also benefit small mammals.
Tree work – ideally any work on trees and shrubs should be done between 1st October and 28th Feb to protect nesting birds and avoid working on trees while the sap is still up. If any large trees are ever felled, seek a bit of advice before doing it as they could be bat roosts.
Gravestones – I don’t think cleaning gravestones is being planned, but if it were it’s worth thinking about lichens – be a shame to lose a scarce one