Memorandum by the Living Churchyard &
Cemetery Project (CEM 60)
1. The Living Churchyard & Cemetery
Project (LCCP) promotes the principles and practices of nature
conservation in all types of burial grounds throughout the country.
Based at the Arthur Rank Centre (an ecumenical rural church centre),
it originally focussed on rural churchyards and burial grounds.
In recent years, however, while continuing its work in this field
it has also developed into urban and secular burial grounds.
2. The LCCP wishes to submit representations
to the Committee on the following topics:
The environmental, historical and
cultural significance of cemeteries for local communities. The
condition of existing cemeteries in respect of nature conservation.
The management and provision of cemetery
services in respect of nature conservation.
3. The Arthur Rank Centre (ARC) believes
it is important to challenge the church and religious authorities
with their responsibility for conservation issues. In 1987, and
as part of this work, it established the Church & Conservation
Project (CCP). In 1989 the CCP, with the support of a number of
leading conservation organisations, 
launched an extensive DIY information pack entitled "The
Living Churchyard". The aim was to arouse interest in the
value of churchyards, chapel yards and cemeteries for nature conservation.
The highly successful launch resulted in widespread interest in
the project within the UK and beyond and ultimately led to the
establishment of the LCCP. This was led by a national advisory
group with a broad spectrum of members formed to act in conjunction
with and as advisors to the Development Officeroriginally
on secondment from the Nature Conservancy Council (now English
Regrettably funding, always a major problem
for the LCCP, has been insufficient during the last year to meet
the cost of employing a development officer.
4. The aims of the LCCP are:
To enhance wildlife and its habitat
in all kinds of burial grounds through conservation management.
To preserve burial grounds as essential
elements of the historic landscape and to promote their recognition
To create an atmosphere of benefit
to grieving visitors and to promote community based action for
To encourage educational use of burial
To aid the understanding of our natural
and cultural heritage and its importance in God's creation.
To enhance the amenity of burial
To this end:
The LCCP has worked to support and advise, as
required, those places in Britain, where the
ideas of the project have already
become established and to direct help and guidance into expanding
areas such as urban and secular. For example it has:
produced a wealth of resources
and information for those interested in enhancing churchyards,
cemeteries and burial grounds for nature conservation and re-creation;
arranged training days in respect
of the conservation management of churchyardsdealing with
matters such as survey, management planning and practical work;
developed, in association with
Solihull College, a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in
The LCCP promotes churchyards and cemeteries
as an educational resource. For example:
The LCCP has already produced a very
successful educational pack for children at Keystage 2 (7-11 years
old) entitled "Hunt the Daisy".
This is an education pack designed to help teachers and leaders
of children's groups use the resources of their local churchyard,
burial ground or cemetery and to enable children to gain an appreciation
of nature and the importance of conservation, whilst gaining a
respect for the dignity of such places. Linked to the national
curriculum, the pack also enables teachers to use churchyards
and cemeteries to assist in the teaching of mathematics, science,
history, art, geography and a sense of social responsibility.
(Note: Requests had been received for a pack aimed at Keystage
1. Regrettably, the lack of funding and the resulting need to
dispense, for the time being at any rate, with the services of
the development officer, have meant this has had to be put on
The LCCP is currently involved in a pilot project
organised by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, the objective
of which is "To consider options to develop processes that
will inform and activate choice in the way cemetery sites are
maintained and managed for the betterment of both the community
and wildlife" (For full details see Appendix).
Cemeteries are open spaces. As such they have
the potential to be of real significance as far as the natural
environment is concerned. In some urban areas they may be of particular
significance. For example the nearest group of mature trees to
Birmingham city centre is in an old cemetery.
When Britain signed the Convention on Biological
Diversity at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, it committed
itself to playing a part in conserving and sustaining the variety
of life on Earth. As a consequence of this, a national Biodiversity
Action Plan (BAP) was prepared describing the animals, plants
and habitats most a risk of extinction in Britain together with
practical actions for their conservation. Subsequently a series
of local BAPs were drawn up.
Cemeteries afford a tremendous opportunity for
assisting the success of such action plans. The fact that they
are open spaces obviously means that, with a little care and a
little attention to their habitat creation and management, they
have the potential to support much biodiversity. Indeed, the memorial
stones themselves play an important role providing as they do,
and as far as pollution levels and stone types will permit, an
opportunity for many varieties of lichens to flourish.
Changing the management of our cemeteries in
this way would, in addition, have a direct effect on the well
being of the local population. For many urban dwellers the opportunity
of seeing wild flowers and animals is greatly restricted. Well-managed
cemeteries would help redress the balance and provide the opportunity
to encourage a greater interest in the natural worldand
a greater understanding of its importance.
Cemeteries are, first and foremost, for the
burying of our dead. It therefore follows that every one of them
contains a wealth of social historyand on an ongoing basis.
This is immediately obvious in most of the older cemeteries, many
of which were designed by famous landscape architects of the day,
such as Joseph Paxton. Unfortunately it may be less obvious in
the newer onesand even in the newer sections of the old
onespartly thanks to restrictive regulations and partly,
perhaps, to a change in our culture.
Culturally most cemeteries have something to
offer. Many of them have the potential to be a rich educational
resource. Again the older ones are perhaps of particular significance.
However, the changes in our culture have resulted in the new ones
being what they are and this in itself makes them significant.
Well managed cemeteries are places where people,
nature and history meet. People are generally remembered by the
bereaved as they were, so headstones reflected the style, fashion
and culture not just of the day but also, frequently, of the society
to which the deceased belonged. In addition, the amenity value
of these large urban green spaces should not be under-estimated
or overlooked. Indeed, recreation was as intrinsic to the design
of the older cemeteries as was burial
A few cemeteries are already managed with nature
conservation greatly in mind. Carlisle is a major and successful
Unfortunately, many more are not. Over the years
a mindset seems to have developed that a good cemetery must, for
be closely manicuredthis has all too often
resulted in no long grass or other cover for small animals, no
wild flowers and the overuse of weed killer;
(i) use every available space for burialthis
has discouraged the leaving of areas for habitat creation.
The result is that many cemeteries have become
somewhat barren. In these cases it is the reintroduction rather
than the conservation of the natural environment that is now required.
However, this is not as difficult a task as it may appear and
would certainly pay great dividends.
For many years, except in some isolated cases
(Carlisle again being a notable example), cemetery services have
rarely been provided with nature conservation in mind. Too few
cemetery managers have had the necessary knowledge and, with the
priority always being to make cemeteries pay (purely in financial
terms), the pressure has been to make grounds maintenance as quick
and as simple as possible. Examples of this include keeping planting
to a minimum, keeping unwanted growth down by weedkiller and arranging
the layout of the grounds and the memorials around the ease of
mowing. (Note: Even the prohibition of kerb memorials will have
had a detrimental effect on the environment since the crevices
supplied by the kerbs are a useful habitat for a number of invertebrates.)
The LCCP suggests the following in relation
to its own aims as listed in 4 above.
Recognise the importance of cemeteries:
to the environmentand not
merely in respect of wildlife but also the local community;
as an educational resource for all
as part of our ongoing heritage;
for the comfort and memories of many
as an expression of our respect for
Support and encourage pilot studies such as
that being organised by Sandwell MBC (see Appendix).
Facilitate an information programme/PR campaign
change the general mindset that,
in order for cemeteries to fulfil their primary purposeie
the burying and commemorating of our dead, they have always to
be closely manicured;
change the general belief that when
nature conservation is introduced into cemeteries they will start
to look like overgrown wildernesses which are likely to attract
vandals and other less desirable members of society and which
will not be helpful to the bereaved or respectful to the departed;
reassure the bereaved that introducing
nature conservation into cemetery management will not result in
the above, that the memorials will not be hidden by tall grass
etc and that access to the individual memorials will not become
facilitate/establish training programmes
for cemetery managers (current and future) in all matters to do
with the conservation and re-introduction of wildlife in cemeteries.
Take action to involve the local communities
and to establish within them an interest and a sense of ownershipby,
for example, encouraging all sections of the local community to
assist in, say:
the creation of areas such as wild
the re-creation of habitats;
the setting up of nesting boxes;
the monitoring of wildlife within
the recording of inscriptions;
the promotion and marketing of local
using the cemeteries as an educational resource
for local schools (see "Hunt the Daisy" above).
Encouraging local interest groups to use cemeteries
encouraging "Open Days"
which attract all sectors of the community rather than just those
with a direct interest in the cemetery (ie include suitable "attractions"
of general interest and entertainment).
Use action such as the above to encourage a
change in the attitude prevalent in this country that, because
all things to do with death are gruesome and to be avoided whenever
possible, it follows that cemeteries must be gruesome and should
likewise be avoided. Success in this would be likely to result
in a greater use of cemeteries, a greater willingness to see money
spent on cemeteries and, as a result, a lessening in cemeteries
being seen as suitable places for the less desirable members of
society to congregate. This last is important if cemeteries are
an atmosphere of benefit to grieving
a better and safer environment for
CEMETERIES PROJECTSANDWELL MBC
To consider options to develop processes that
will inform and activate choice in the way cemetery sites are
maintained and managed for the betterment of both the community
The Living Churchyards and Cemeteries Project
(LCCP) has successfully developed a process that has allowed for
a range of environmental initiatives in rural churchyards to improve
and enhance the wildlife content.
There is as yet no programme developed to consider
the way forward for cemeteries. A benchmark example exists at
Carlisle but there is a need for a more fundamental approach to
inform and encourage Cemetery Managers, Greenspace Managers and
A 12-month pilot study analysing a locally focussed
site(s) linked to:
local funding opportunities;
biodiversity action plans;
There will be a direct relationship with existing
Government priorities and initiatives, such as:
Best Value, where there is a need
to challenge the way things are done and consult with relevant
Community Safety, where there is
a need to ensure all places visited/used by the public are considered
safe and consequently "owned" by the whole community.
Disability Discrimination Act, requiring
ease of access to all venues.
Social Inclusion, where groups are
not discriminated against.
Sustainability, where the grounds
are managed in an appropriate manner that enhances the environment
for both humans and wildlife.
To produce brief for a 12 months' programme.
To identify partners.
To identify sitescurrent environmental
condition look at options.
To consult relevant groups/individuals.
To determine inputs/outputs.
To consider video project, capturing the project
Urban Wildlife Trust (lead).
Institute of Burial and Cremation Managers representative.
Nature Conservation Officers (Mets/Shires).
Greenspace Management representative.
Local external funding (SRB).
Environment Action Fund.
Lottery funding (for revenue?).
Periodic reports to LCCP Group and other relevant
Produce (draft) relevant information packs.
Present findings to relevant bodies.
Develop pilot regionally/nationally through
agreed policy and action plan.
Monitor progress via Steering Group reporting
to LCCP Group.
23 World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), English Nature
(then the Nature Conservancy Council), the Wildlife Trusts (as
RSNC) and CSV/UK2000. Back
It is understood that the Select Committee has a copy of the latest
"DIY Information Pack". Back
It is understood that the Select Committee has a copy of this
education pack. Back