Marden Churchyard – the wildlife in God’s Acre

Mar 25, 2022

Wildlife flourishes in St Michael’s & All Angels’ churchyard – a fact recognised by its Silver Eco Award. Paths are mown for ease of access, but much of the ground is left undisturbed for most of the year and is full of flowers in spring, especially bluebells and celandines. Throughout the summer there is a riot of colour with common daisies and buttercups vying with flowering grasses and the taller Oxeye-Daisies for visitors’ attention – and to attract a myriad species of insects.

Marden Church
Marden Churchyard

The areas of long grass provide cover and food for small animals like Bank Voles and moths, flowers for bees and other insects, and seeds for birds like the Goldfinch. Look for the specially mown labyrinth path, then stroll slowly amongst the long grass and look for insects and butterflies.

Marden Churchyard

There are abundant mature trees. Lawson Cypress form a thick walk along the side of the railway, providing year-round shelter for birds. In spring and summer listen for the song of Blackbirds, Chaffinches and Great Tits. Even in winter you may hear Robins, tiny Wrens, and the high-pitched, even tinier Goldcrests. The goldcrests, the weight of a 20p coin, may have flown all the way from Scandinavia to spend winter in Marden! In the summer they will be raising young here – like this tiny fledgling in a Marden Lawson Cypress.

fledgling

Along the boundary wall with the two roads are rows of Lime trees. Enjoy the scent of blossom in summer and look for their large clumps of Mistletoe in winter.

Maple Trees

On the side with the public footpath are Ash, Hazel (nuts in autumn!) and Maple trees.

There are two Damson trees on the corner of the boundary with the railway ground. Within the body of the churchyard west of the church are two large English Oaks. Behind the church towards the footpath are a collection of ornamental Oaks: the Pin Oak, Shumard Oak and an evergreen Holm Oak.

As in all churchyards the Yew is well represented. The original Yew beside the church has been trimmed for safety, but there are four other yews including one of the golden varieties to be seen.

A Copper Beech looks splendid in summer, and near the boundary wall next to the road is a hybrid Horse Chestnut. This is a hybrid of the common Horse Chestnut and Red Buckeye giving the tree red flowers in the spring.

Two Wild Cherries, a Wild Service (a Low Weald speciality), a large Holly and Hawthorn trees add further interest. Finally, behind Shepherds House a Bramley apple tree was planted in 2009 and is now producing fruit much enjoyed by the birds!

Like many local buildings, the church is built of Kentish Ragstone, so called because its ’ragged surface’ cannot be smoothed or polished. Run your fingers over it and look for a smooth granite gravestone to compare it with. This makes it ideal for moss and slow-growing lichens to grow. Look for the uneven patches of white on the walls and gravestones (and coloured ones on tree trunks).

Lichen on Gravestones
Lichen on Gravestones

These are lichens, so some must be very old – the dates on the gravestone provide a clue. As well as being necessary for them to grow, sunlight brings mosses and lichens to life, adding colour and texture.

Marden Churchyard

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