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Churchyard wildlife pride of the county
A WEST Dorset churchyard has scooped a top prize in a competition to find the best examples of wildlife and people-friendly church grounds.
The yard surrounding St Mary’s Church in Beaminster has been named the joint best managed churchyard by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.
Living Churchyards, sponsored by the Diocese of Salisbury, encourages communities to manage their churchyards for the benefit of wildlife as well as the local congregation, visitors and the bereaved.
Ways in which churchyards can be enhanced for wildlife include developing small areas of mown grass into mini-wildflower meadows, replacing exotic shrubs and hedges with native species and planting nectar-rich flowers to encourage butterflies and other insects.
Judges visited more than 25 Dorset churches before announcing their decision.
Colin Smith, who with Joan Holland and a small group of residents, have spent years cultivating and caring for the churchyard, said that different areas are designated to attract different kinds of wildlife, from bees, wasps and butterflies, to bats.
“About half a dozen of us – we call ourselves the Churchyard gang – go every Thursday morning at about and have a go at it,” he said.
“It is quite hard work as the land is fertile and we spent a lot of time cutting back greenery.
“Some creatures need long grass, some short grass.
“We have flowery meadow areas for spring and summer and a small herb garden and we are in a state of constant updating to make things better.”
Dr Sharron Abbott, Living Churchyard Project Co-ordinator at Dorset Wildlife Trust, praised the winners.
The annual prize-giving takes place at Brooklands Farm on Saturday October 20, when the Rt Rev Dr Graham Kings, Bishop of Sherborne, will present certificates to representatives of all the participating groups.
Best newcomer: St Mary’s at Tarrant Hinton Best urban churchyard: St Clement at Branksome
Best managed (joint winners): St Mary’s at Beaminster and St Martin’s at Broadmayne
Bishop’s Prize (best overall): St James’s at Milton Abbas