Project to create wildlife haven in Wirksworth churchyard show first shoots of success

In spite of challenging weather conditions for gardeners, a community volunteering project to create a wildlife haven in Wirksworth is seeing the first shoots of success.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 4:02 pm

A group of residents have been working for several months to transform the churchyard at St Mary’s into a biodiversity hotspot.

This spring, the group has seen the first snowdrops and then crocuses sprouted from bulbs planted in the autumn.

Volunteer leader Rosemary Blenkinsop said: “The wildflower meadows that used to cover our land have declined dramatically due to changes in farming, and insect numbers have consequently plummetted, with many species as risk of extinction, which means birds and bats suffer too.

The project should make St Mary's a haven for recovering insect populations.

“It’s vital to restore our native limestone grassland species in whatever pockets of land we have access to.”

The project began on the back of a public survey last summer, when Derbyshire Wildlife Trust found clear support among residents for action to help nature.

The charity is supporting the project alongside Derbyshire Dales District Council which manages the space and has committed to improving biodiversity across all of its land portfolio.

It has been funded by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, primarily intended to support urgent repairs to the church roof.

A wet winter may mean that wildflower seeds fail to take root where space was cleared for a mini-meadow north of the church, but it has not dampened the volunteers’ optimism.

Rosemary said: “We’re still hopeful we’ll see some new blooms for the wild bees this summer.”

The volunteers have also planted a rowan tree, sown cornflowers and other wildflower seeds to the south of the church, and are seeking a suitable location nearby for swift nest boxes.

There are plans to make the churchyard more hospitable to human wildlife too.

Town mayor Andy Pollock said: “It’s a prominent green space at the heart of the town. People need access to nature on their doorstep, so to help people enjoy the space we’re installing a bench. We think it’s got one of the best views in town.”

To find out more about the project, contact the St Mary’s team ministry via facebook.com/stmarywirksworth.

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