Churchyards are usually associated with death, but St Lawrence churchyard is very much alive with its wildlife increasing in both variety and number. As well as being a secluded area for relaxation, with careful management it should continue to serve both purposes for many years. Come and enjoy it, but do not disturb it, just – LISTEN and WATCH.
The Gothic Medieval church of St Lawrence has stood here with its churchyard for over 500 years, situated on a site of a much earlier church dating back to at least 921 AD, and fragments of Roman tiles show that it has been occupied since Roman times*.
It is because of this that the land has been virtually untouched by chemicals and fertilisers for probably a thousand years or more. In this age of vanishing wildlife habitat it is essential to, wherever possible, conserve areas however small for our wildlife.
There is a wealth of wildlife already established, and the enhancement of that wildlife is through a management plan which involves selective cutting the grass, the planting and growing of suitable wild flowers, the encouragement of the stinging nettles on which butterflies can lay their eggs, and the planting of Buddleia – butterfly bushes – in the garden.
The area around the church is mown regularly, providing a feeding ground for birds such as the Blackbird and the Thrush. The lower area is mown twice a year at the end of July and September, this enables wild flowers and grasses to re-seed. And in 1984 a total of 89 spices of flowing plants and ferns had been recorded. Another regularly mown area is the wide path leading from the church down to the mill stream. By taking this path at different times of the year you will be able to see a wide variety of flowers, birds, and insects, especially during the Spring and Summer.
Autumn enhances the beauty of the churchyard with the changes of the colour of the trees and the falling leaves. There are over 80 trees within the churchyard providing ideal habitat for the birds to roost and feed. The avenue of Limes are subject to the Tree Preservation Orders as have our 3 incense cedars, and the English and Irish Yews. Various fungi can be found under the trees and in the grasses, small animals are difficult to see but look for tracks in the snow in winter and the tell tale molehills.
The Mill Stream adds to the variety of wildlife and both flora and fauna associated with water can be seen. Another of Towcester’s nature sites, the Water Meadows can be seen on the other side of the Mill Stream
Last but no means least are the often overlooked various forms of Lichens growing on the gravestones. These forms of life are bath varied and complex taking many years to reach maturity and there are recordings of two rare species for the country
*The facts used in this article come from ‘A Parish Church. The story of St Lawrence Church Towcester’