Churchyards should become ‘places of the living, not just the dead’, as parishes are asked to allow grass and wildflowers to grow amongst graves.
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, who is the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, wants there to be limiting mowing in some areas so rare species of flowers can be allowed to grow.
The CoE’s governing body, the General Synod, will meet later this month to vote on how it plans to increase biodiversity as well as encourage churches to develop ‘land action plans’ at parish, diocese and national levels.
The plans have come under scrutiny previously by grieving families with one daughter left unable to find her dead mother’s grave when the cemetery was left to grow for rewilding.
Celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh previously branded the craze as being catastrophic for wildlife.
There are around 17,500 acres of churchyards in England.
The overgrowth at Exwick Cemetery (pictured) is understood to be the result of a ‘meadow grass programme’ that allows grass to grow wild
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, who is the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment, wants there to be limiting mowing in some areas so rare species of flowers can be allowed to grow (Pictured: Overgrown Exwick cemetery in Exeter)
Rt Rev Usher said it was ‘his dream’ for graveyards to be ‘places of the living, not just the dead’.
‘If some parts of the churchyard are not mown, allowing the sward and particularly rare species of plants to grow up in flower, there’s a real interest from communities around that,’ he said.
‘If you do the correct and right interpretation, explaining what you’re wanting to do, combining that management with perhaps areas that are mown, particularly around recent graves.’
The General Synod voted in 2020 for a 2030 net zero target with a Route Map on how to achieve it in 2022.
Last August, one woman, whose parents are buried in Exwick Cemetery in Exeter, said she was ‘heartbroken’ when she couldn’t locate her mother’s resting place during a recent visit.
The overgrowth was understood to be the result of a ‘meadow grass programme’ that allows grass to grow wild.
For 10 years, grass in parts of the cemetery which are ‘not actively visited’ is left to grow, which the Council says allows them to be protected and immersed in nature.
The grieving daughter, speaking on the basis of anonymity, recalled: ‘I went to visit my mum’s grave and couldn’t find it. It’s really, really overgrown, it’s unreal. My father’s grave, all around that is completely overgrown.
‘I was heartbroken, you can’t see graves because [the grass] is three or four feet. It’s so disrespectful.’
However, the Council says that actively visited areas are cut and that people should notify them if their loved one’s memorial has been overlooked.
An Exeter City Council spokesman said: ‘We have been operating a meadow grass programme in Exwick for the last 10 years. The blocks that have been left to meadow are recorded as historic blocks that are not actively visited.
‘In leaving the grass, the stones are offered protection from high maintenance regimes, and become immersed in wild flowers, invertebrates and many butterflies.
Alan Titchmarsh (pictured) told a House of Lords investigation last year the craze for rewilding – leaving areas uncultivated to restore nature – will make Britain’s gardens less biodiverse
‘Areas actively visited continue to remain on high amenity cut programmes, and we are more than happy to investigate issues if residents believe that their loved one’s grave has been overlooked or the policy misapplied in individual cases.’
Mr Titchmarsh, the former Gardners’ World presenter, caused controversy last July with his views on rewilding when he suggested the popular gardening trend was actually bad for the environment.
He told peers at the House of Lords that domestic gardens and well-planted parks will offer wildlife ‘sustenance and shelter’ from March through to November, while rewilded gardens typically have only a four-month flowering season.
He said it was an ‘ill-considered trend’ that will ‘deplete our gardens of their botanical riches’ and be catastrophic for wildlife.