In recent years volunteers have been managing the churchyard of St John Sub Castro in Lewes for wildlife. Through dedicated cutting, raking and planting a previously overgrown corner of the churchyard is turning into a flower-rich wildlife haven. The churchyard’s wildlife certainly approves and so do the human visitors who have commented on the wonderful display of flowers, butterflies and bees here. As part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project at the church I was asked to run three events to allow people to get closer to the wildlife that lives here.
Last week we held a bat night in the churchyard. After a short lecture on bats we wandered amongst the headstones with bat detectors which allowed us to listen to the bats as they used their incredible echolocation to hunt for insects. We heard two species in the churchyard; common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle and later found Daubenton’s bat over the water in the adjacent Pells.
The following morning I was back in the churchyard – this time with a group of keen young entomologists for a bug hunt. Armed with pots, nets, beating trays and pooters we searched through the churchyard to see what wildlife we could find.
There was plenty of insects enjoying the hot summer weather; holly blue butterflies high in the trees, amazing rose chafer beetles flying around the flowers and a brilliantly camouflaged peppered moth hiding on a headstone. There was also a supporting cast of slugs, ladybirds, woodlice, earwigs, hoverflies and many more) – we even found a nationally rare beetle; the false firefly Drilus flavescens. Some of the children had the chance to get REALLY close to an elephant hawkmoth!
There were more hawkmoths at my third event in the churchyard – a moth trap evening. As darkness fell we fired up the moth trap’s mercury vapour bulb to see what species are flying around the churchyard at night. Amongst the moths we found were light emerald, poplar hawkmoth, riband wave, small fan-foot, brimstone moth, straw dot, common marbled carpet, heart & dart and orange footman. On a torchlit walk around the churchyard we even encountered a pair of hedgehogs – a sight you sadly don’t see very often these days.
These events proved that this churchyard on the edge of Lewes is a precious haven for a great range a wildlife. Congratulations to the volunteers who have worked hard here and thank you to everyone who came along and attended these wildlife events