Birds and bugs benefit from wildlife grant at St James the Great, Dursley

Published: Tuesday May 9, 2023
A Common Orchid spotted at St James the Great, Dursley
A Common Orchid spotted at St James the Great, Dursley

A diocesan wildlife grant has enabled St James the Great, Dursley, to establish multiple projects in its urban gardens and grounds.

St James the Great stands in the heart of Dursley town centre and over the years has seen extensive renovation and restoration work. Five years ago it set out on its journey to be an Eco Church when members from the worshipping community formed an Eco Church group, with a shared interest in promoting care for the environment.

Gillian Mather, a member of the group, says, “The initial focus of the group was to achieve the Eco Church Bronze Award. We attended a training event run by the diocesan Environmental Engagement Officer and by working through the issues raised in the scheme’s questionnaire, we were able to direct many of our plans, including promoting the wildlife in our urban churchyard.”

In recent years, the group has introduced several projects including the introduction of ‘No Mow May’, liaison with the local ‘Men’s Shed’ group to help with the manufacture of eight bird nesting boxes, and the construction of a substantial bug hotel. Members of the worshipping community who volunteer to mow the churchyard grass and maintain other natural areas have shown interest and active support of the concept of helping more areas at St James to be wildlife friendly.

In January 2022, St James the Great received its Bronze Eco Church Award.

Gillian says, “Whilst keeping areas appealingly tidy with judicious weeding, many natural flora and fauna areas are being encouraged. Excitingly, last summer, an orchid appeared in a grassy area adjacent to the church, which had been left to grow long. This seemed to fire the imagination of many people whose attention had been drawn to it.”

Gillian continues, “When the Eco Church group identified the need for bird nesting boxes in the churchyard, we felt it was an opportunity to involve the local Men’s Shed charity, which helps people in the community develop useful woodwork skills. They have been very enthusiastic about the project and have made about eight boxes to date. Two of the parishioners have kindly installed them strategically in several of the trees and did not charge us for their work but asked for a small donation per box towards materials, which part of the wildlife grant has been used for.

“We are also very proud of our new bug hotel which sits in the corner of the churchyard. This project was led by two members of the Eco Church group who designed and constructed it, with money from the grant paying for the gabion cage. It has a turf roof which has been planted with wildflowers, and herbs and lavender have been planted nearby to encourage ‘highways’ for insects to and from the hotel.

“The bug hotel is not only encouraging the insect and minibeast population in the churchyard, but it is also a visible point of interest for the worshipping community who use the public footpath close by. It provides a focal point for several of our Churches Count on Nature events, including Guides, Brownies and local primary school events. Most recently, the young people were shown how it is possible to construct their own small insect hotel at home using a tin or flowerpot.”

The group has also been investigating the possibility of installing swift boxes in the belfry at St James the Great to help these endangered birds.

“Two bellringers have generously offered their time to install the boxes, so we only need to pay for materials, which the rest of the grant will cover. We have recently begun thinking about how we are working our way towards the Silver Eco Church award, identifying the issues which we may have already achieved, as well as new plans to address others. So there is much still to do but it is hugely rewarding to see how it all develops.”

The Environmental Fund helps local parish churches to deliver new environmental projects. Plans that improve the churchyard which include new approaches and innovative ideas as well as sustainable approaches to supporting your local environment are potentially eligible for grants of up to £250.

To find out more about how to apply for one of these #grantsforgardens, visit our Grants for Gardens web page.

We are calling on all worshipping communities, to be the change, and take part in our #EcoChurchInAnHour campaign. Visit: Eco Church in an hour


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