Reserves
St Mary's Churchyard

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St Mary's Church has been called the "Cathedral of the Moors" due to its grandeur for a village of Yatton's size. Its tranquil churchyard is home to mature trees, wildflowers, and a rich variety of animal life.

Overview

St Mary’s Churchyard is ‘closed’ – i.e. no more burials are taking place, and North Somerset Council is now legally responsible for its management (sub-contracted to Dignity). Dignity subcontracts the maintenance work to Glendale.

YACWAG planted trees, shrubs and wild flowers and negotiated the retention of some uncut edges to provide a better environment for wildlife. We have raised money for bird and bat boxes for the churchyard and a number of compost bins in which we sometimes see slow worms. The churchyard is good for bats as it provides good foraging in the centre of the village. YACWAG has put up bat boxes and regular monitoring has discovered rare species of bat, like the Lesser Horseshoe and Brown Long-eared together with Serotine and Pipistrelle.


There is a small burial ground in current use on the south side which is owned, organised and managed by Yatton Parish Council.

 
Small-leaved lime tree in churchyard

20 Years working in partnership

YACWAG supported the Friends of St Mary’s Churchyard in enhancing the churchyard under the national scheme ‘The Living Churchyard Project.’ The local project began in 1999 at the suggestion of a North Somerset Council officer who at that time had the responsibility for churchyard management. It ended in 2019 when North Somerset Council decided to 'take back control’ and remove wildlife habitat to make the churchyard ‘tidier’.

The aim of the Living Churchyard project was to provide a wildlife haven in the centre of the village by creating habitat for wildlife. It was also the intention to create a space that was soothing for people visiting graves and educational for those passing through. YACWAG was able to show the wildlife to local youth groups in a safe environment away from roads. Workparties were held on the fourth Saturday of each month and drew volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. For 20 years the project was hailed as a success and the church supported it enthusiastically. The churchyard is now managed by contractors.

The two photos below show the spring flowers in 2018 before the council’s decision to strim off the flowers annually to create an even grass sward, and the same patch after strimming.
Spring flowers in 2018 before the council’s decision
The same patch after strimming

The Community Owls Project under the Hawk and Owl Trust has erected a tawny owlbox in the western portion of the churchyard; 3rd Yatton Guides have donated and put up a bat box; Yatton Cubs have made and put up bird boxes.

The Living Churchyard project - Ali and Jan get stuck in
The Living Churchyard project - Mark digging for victory
Purple-leaved Plum trees planted in 2017
(thanks to the Co-op Community Fund)

Thanks to a grant from the Co-op Community Fund, three replacement trees were planted in the churchyard in January 2017.

An umbrella organisation called Caring for God's Acre exists to support projects looking after wildlife in churchyards.

Wildlife

The site used to attract a richer variety of wildlife, especially insects feeding on the flowers. The contractors have mostly cut those flowers down. Insects are important to provide food for bats and birds. The photos below were all taken before North Somerset Council’s decision.

One of the old untended graves cleared and
planted with flowers for pollinating insects.
An Oak Bush cricket on a gravestone
enjoying the sun
Red admiral butterfly resting
on a branch in the churchyard
Primroses in the north-western
part of the churchyard
Slow worms find a refuge in the compost
bins and habitat piles in the churchyard.
Good Friday Grass (Luzula campestris)
- the tiny field woodrush flowering
in the grass in the churchyard.

Location

Church of St Mary the Virgin

Church Road

Yatton

North Somerset

Bristol

BS49 4HH

Car parking: the church has free parking, otherwise nearby on-street parking.