Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

Stapleford Abbotts churchyard is a haven for wildlife

24th May 2018

The Church of St Mary the Virgin in Stapleford Abbotts, Essex, is welcoming many different kinds of visitors. The churchyard is teeming with birds, bats and bugs.

It is home to goldcrests, kestrels, buzzards, red legged partridges and long eared brown bats. Blue tits nest in bird boxes. Insects shelter in a ‘bug hotel’.

To increase the range of habitats beyond the existing native hedges, last autumn parishioners planted six greengage, plum, apple and pear trees.


They applied to Grow Wild, and were successful in being sent a seed kit for wild flowers.  The kit contains a mix of top-quality wild flower species selected by scientists at Kew Gardens.  These seeds have been sown in the churchyard. Areas of grass are left uncut to encourage native butterflies.

Canon Roger Gayler, Priest in Charge of Stapleford Abbotts, said: “Many different species are enjoying the church’s environment. The churchyard is proving to be a microclimate of biodiversity.

“We all worry about what sort of world we will leave our children and grandchildren.  Christians believe that God made creation in all its beauty, saw that it was good, and then entrusted it to the care of human beings. We are stewards of this precious gift. It is our responsibility to look after it.” 

The parish is working in partnership with Essex Wildlife Trust and has applied for an Eco Church Award in recognition of its stewardship.

Revd Christine Newmarch, the Environment Champion of Chelmsford Diocese, added: “This churchyard is a living example of local work in progress towards what the Church of England calls the Fifth Mark of Mission: ‘To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth’.

“Good luck to St Mary the Virgin Church with their application for the Eco Church Award. We look forward to hearing more good news from the parish soon.”

Picture: Church of St Mary the Virgin in Stapleford Abbotts (Diocese of Chelmsford).

More information

Churchyards can contain a wealth of species in a landscape that is increasingly depleted of nature.

The bug hotel in the churchyard includes a stack of pallets that provides hidey-holes for insects.

Grow Wild is the national outreach initiative of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The Essex Wildlife Trust is the county’s leading conservation charity.

Eco Church Awards are given by A Rocha, a Christian charity working to protect and restore the natural world in partnership with Christian Aid, the Church of England, the Methodist Church and Tearfund.

The Five Marks of Mission are an important statement on mission within the Anglican Communion (or worldwide Anglican Church), of which the Church of England is part.  The Church recognises caring for the environment as a key part of mission.

Chelmsford Diocese is the Church of England in Essex and East London.