The Churchyard Challenge

11 Apr 2023
The heritage riches of Norfolk are not matched by a wealth in biodiversity. Whereas, it has some 600 medieval churches alone, it has lost some 95% of traditional meadowland since the Second World War. Such landscape is not just easy on the eye, it is also home to key plant, animal and insect species. It is a factory for nature that has been lost to highly mechanized, chemically assisted food production. Over the winter of 2022/2023, the CCT’s Regeneration Team worked to create a partnership which will use 14 churchyards in the Broads National Park to start to build-back these essential, but threatened, natural places. The CCT won £39,000 from DEFRA’s Farming in Protected Landscape’s scheme (promoted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or AONBs), to fund a 12 month programme of conservation management, countryside skills’ training, and wider public engagement and interpretation. The Churchyard Challenge, seeks to establish small, ‘stepping-stones’ for nature in these churchyards and is working with local volunteers and school children to teach conservation sensitive mowing or scything techniques, provide nesting boxes for swifts and bats, and develop wildlife friendly spaces. Walking and cycling routes connecting these pockets for nature, together with picnic tables, benches and interpretation boards are being prepared so that people can actively engage with these special places. This unique collaboration brings together the Diocese of Norwich, the Broads Authority, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and a local refugee charity, New Routes Integration and could well provide a template for similar partnerships on other AONBs.