Many aspiring bird watchers will visit local nature reserves to catch a glimpse of the UK’s common and rarer species. These reserves are limited in number, and you may have to travel a significant distance or pay an entrance fee to wander the site in search of the next species on your list. Now what if you could observe a variety of local wildlife, and not just birds a mere 10 or 15 minutes away? For free?
The Beautiful Burial Grounds project (funded by the National Lottery) aims to do just that, by evaluating the thousands of burial grounds all across Britain. The project will use citizen scientists to record not only the wildlife present on these sites, but also monuments and historical buildings that have so far gone unnoticed.
The sheer volume of wildlife in these churchyards may surprise you, they can contain hundreds of lichen species, amphibians, voles, bees, bats, badgers, snakes and lizards, invertebrates like stag beetles and a great variety of flora.
Back in 2010 Emma Cepek produced a short video called "Beyond the Grave" and proposed that cemeteries today can be “vital habitats in urban areas”. Looking specifically at Manchester’s southern cemetery, it is a haven for wildlife, an area that is less intensively managed that much of today’s remaining countryside. It is estimated that there is approximately 7,000 hectares of cemeteries in England alone. This is due in part to the larger municipal cemeteries, locations that can feature trees and habitat hundreds of years old. Most importantly, these areas represent habitat that has not been separated into tiny pieces through fragmentation.
The Beautiful Burial Grounds project seeking to evaluate these cemeteries is being run by the Caring for Gods Acre, although many other organisations are getting involved across the country. The end goal of this project is to create an interactive map that you will be able to use to find local sites and check sightings in your area. There will also be days specifically for people and families coping with mental-health issues or disabilities, even the blind can learn to identify a bird by its song.
If you decide you want to get involved in this or similar projects, contact your local botany or wildlife groups! They are always on the look-out for more volunteers.
For more information visit: https://www.hlf.org.uk/about-us/news-features/hidden-heritage-burial-grounds-be-revealed
Video Link if wanted: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11546089
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