We think of June as the month for flowers and butterflies but spare a thought for the amphibians which may rely on your churchyard. Wait a minute, amphibians; frogs, toads and newts, don’t they live in ponds?
No, they don’t, they breed in ponds, laying the distinctive jelly-covered spawn, but actually spend much of the year on land. Unlike reptiles, amphibians need to keep their skin moist so you may find them sheltering in shaded areas, perhaps under deadwood or amongst old leaves. The base of a stone wall is a great place to look for amphibians and also slowworms, hunting in longer vegetation for slugs, snails, beetles, worms and other invertebrates.
Frogs have such a porous skin that they can change colour depending on their surroundings. A frog which has hibernated in an area of clay will emerge in spring coloured quite a bright orange.
Churchyards are brilliant for amphibians as they contain lots of nooks and crannies for them to shelter in and hunt for food. Walls, shaded wooded areas, rotting leaves and also the gaps that appear beside monuments or the cracks within chest tombs or other larger memorials. In addition, they are free of the burden of garden and farmland chemicals such as slug killers, insecticides and fertilisers that are so commonly used elsewhere. These affect the animals via the food they eat and also get absorbed by their sensitive skin.
To help amphibians, try not to be too tidy! Keep some areas of long and tussocky grassland, pile up dead wood and loose stones into heaps. A compost bay is a great source of food and shelter.
All the best
Diocesan Churchyard Environmental Advisor, firstname.lastname@example.org
www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk - individuals and groups in the diocese receive 20% members discount on all CfGA materials. Use the discount code Lich19