No-one knows just how many trees the Church of England has on its land. It is has some 10,000 churchyards, and many often provide the only, ‘green lung’ within a community and rare habitats for a wide range of biodiversity.
The Church is responsible for a large number of trees which, like churches, need managing. The often great age of churchyards, and the long term protection they offer, means many of these trees hold great significance, and others have the potential to do so. The long term protection offered by churchyards means they often contain ‘veteran’ trees – those with ancient characteristics – and as such hold particular importance ecologically and culturally. However this natural heritage is often managed by people with little specialist arboricultural or interpretation experience.
Whilst churchyard yews are well known for their great age, there are many other species which provide a wealth of value to local communities. They may hold the secret to fighting threats to trees such as ash dieback and those affecting chestnuts, elms and oaks believes David Shreeve, Environmental Consultant to the Archbishops' Council. “If you’ve a variety of elm for example, which has not been affected by Dutch elm disease, perhaps there is something special about them that makes them resistant,” he explains. “Churchyards may be the Noah’s Ark for trees.”
Two churchyard trees conferences supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund are being held this autumn, aimed at archdeacons, clergy, churchwardens, DAC Secretaries and Diocesan Environment Officers, friends groups, tree officers and all those involved in the care of churchyard trees. They will promote greater awareness of the importance of churchyard trees and encourage their maintenance, future growth and interpretation with the support of the community.
The conferences will be held in Liverpool Cathedral (6 Oct) and St John’s Waterloo in London (2 Nov) and feature leading churchyard and arboricultural experts who will discuss the responsibilities of churchyards and the support and management they can use to protect the future of churchyard trees.
To register your interest in attending please visit www.conservationfoundation.co.uk/churchyardtrees
Liverpool cathedral, where one of the Churchyard Trees Conferences will take place.