Dartmoor Churchyards Project

Churchyards – Britain’s oldest meadows?

Moor Meadows is helping the charity Caring for God’s Acre to collate data for the first national database of all the natural and manmade treasures of burial grounds across the UK.

In many parishes burial grounds are the only patch of unimproved species-rich grassland, full of wild flowers that have almost vanished from the wider landscape.

Gravestones themselves are home to 700 of the 2,000 species of lichens in the UK, many found nowhere else, as well as slowworms, voles, toads, bees, butterflies and myriad bird species.

Moor Meadows is aiming to collate plant and insect records of some of the ancient churchyards on Dartmoor. If you are a grassland botanist, a fungi expert, entomologist, tree expert, photographer or film maker and you could spend a day in summer with a small group surveying one or two churchyards please email donna.moormeadows@gmail.com.

The ancient churchyards surveyed so far have been:

The survey results are available to view in the porch of the churchyards and sent to the Devon Biodiversity Records Office.

As a result of the survey work, Holy Trinity, Buckfastleigh have turned over a large portion of the churchyard to a ‘Bee and Butterfly Haven’, managed in collaboration with Moor Meadows. St. Mary’s Throwleigh has been managed with wildlife in mind for at least the last twenty years. After a survey in 2020, St. Mary’s was designated a County Wildlife Site – the first churchyard in Devon to receive this accolade.

Please let us know of any other churchyard on Dartmoor you think would make a good survey site. Contact donna.moormeadows@gmail.com.

Your churchyard isn’t on Dartmoor but you’d like to join in?

Several organisations are supporting churches and local communities to identify and record wildlife in their local churchyard. The Exeter Diocese is working with the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre to create a toolkit to help people record churchyard wildlife. For more information contact David Curry: dcurry.devongreenchurches@gmail.com

The national charity Caring for God’s Acre has an excellent website with extensive information on managing churchyards for people and for wildlife.

If you are interested in recording wildflower species in your local churchyard, in order to add to the amount of information already held on the significance of burial grounds for biodiversity, then consider adding the species via iRecord to the Caring for God’s Acre National Biodiversity Network Database Atlas. There is a map of all burial grounds showing the records they hold here.


More Help and Information

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Scything workshop


Lots of useful links to books, courses, workshops, contractors, videos, podcasts, websites, seed and equipment suppliers, and other meadows groups

A restored Dartmoor hay meadow in early June

What is a Meadow?

We asked renowned ecologist George Peterken to explain what a meadow is

Wet wildflower meadow

Where to Visit a Meadow

Several owners lead walks and talks around their meadows, sharing their passion and knowledge during Open Meadows days