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Living Churchyards

Yorkshire - county of Living Churchyards – where God’s Acre is ablaze with native wild flowers, alive with bees, butterflies, birds and small mammals, a sanctuary for the living as well as for the dead

The English churchyard - God's Acre - is unique

Sensitive management can enable an abundance and diversity of indigenous and naturalised wildlife to flourish but without forgetting the churchyard’s primary purpose as a sacred place of remembrance and the last resting place for our forebears. Taken together, the 1300+ Yorkshire churchyards make a significant area of land that has survived untouched by intensive agriculture and urban development.

Many native plant and lichen species and their associated fauna survive only in churchyards

The churchyard can redress the loss, since World War II, of almost all of our colourful hay meadows and its importance for wildlife was recognised as early as 1972. By 1984 it had been demonstrated that many native plant and lichen species and their associated fauna survived only in churchyards. This came to the attention of Dr John Habgood, then Archbishop of York, and following his discussions with Sir David Attenborough the Yorkshire Living Churchyard Project was launched as a joint venture between Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Diocese of York.

When requested, members of the Project make advisory visits to churchyards and burial grounds, regardless of denomination, to help people create a Living Churchyard within their community.

Each year, a number of Open Churchyard events are held and Project members are available to give talks to groups.

A copy of the Churchyard Management booklet is available to download below.


St Helen and the Holy Cross, Sheriff Hutton

This churchyard was one of the first to be managed for wildlife. After many years of being close-mown throughout, areas were designated for less frequent mowing and a rich variety of native wild flowers appeared there, attracting insects and birds. Areas of tended graves are kept close-mown for easy access and a display in the church gives information for parishioners and visitors about the importance of the churchyard for wildlife.

Sheriff Hutton before and after management

St Helen's, Wheldrake

A rich sward of grasses and wild flower species now lines the paths around St Helen's Churchyard in Wheldrake.

Wheldrake before and after management

Latest news, updates and additional useful resources

Living Churchyard Management booklet cover

Project newsletters and the following resources are all available below for you to download below:

  • 'Some native British trees and shrubs' - a brief guide to a variety of native British species
  • 'Some effects of artificial lighting on wildlife' - useful notes
  • The Living Churchyard Management Booklet




FilenameFile size
Some native British trees and shrubs.pdf74.49 KB
Some effects of artificial lighting on wildlife.pdf96.56 KB
Yorkshire Living Churchyard Spring Newsletter 2011.pdf1.19 MB
Living Churchyard Management Booklet 2011.pdf6.65 MB
2011 Autumn Newsletter2.01 MB
2012 Autumn Newsletter.pdf2.72 MB
2013 Spring Newsletter1.93 MB
2013 Autumn Newsletter3.66 MB