After the bustle of Christmas and the New Year, January is a good time to hunker down, seeking warmth and shelter in our homes. Our churchyards offer a cosy home to many animals and birds who spend the winter there. Look out for hibernating hedgehogs in dense vegetation; hedgehogs wrap themselves in leaves so that they look a bit like a leaf football! Mice, voles and shrews will be in warm nests within holes and crannies made by uneven ground, the gaps in the joints of chest tombs and within walls. Animals such as reptiles, amphibians and insects are sedentary in the cold, needing the warmth of the sun to be active again in the spring. They pass the winter tucked away in grass tussocks, in hollow stems of plants, under leaves, stones or deadwood and within the crevices of trees.
Although naturally full of sheltering places, we can make our churchyards even more welcoming to wildlife in winter, often by providing features that are also used in spring and summer. A deadwood pile gives both winter protection and a good source of summer food for hedgehogs and slowworms. A heap of stones keeps hibernating and nesting animals safe from cats or foxes. A nest box erected for nesting blue tits can fill with wrens on a cold night. The record number of wrens found in one bird box is an amazing 63! Try cutting hedges and areas of tussocky grass every other year, doing half each year. This provides food, shelter and safety for a host of creatures in the winter followed by feeding, hunting and nesting places in spring.