Did you know that churches can be amazing places for wildlife? Not only beautiful wildflowers in your grounds, but critical nesting places for some of our most declining species inside the churches. All this incredible nature isn’t just important for its intrinsic value but provides us essential natural services for our everyday lives. A tiny pipistrelle bat for example can eat up to 3000 insects a night! Swansea Council has secured Welsh Government funding for a three-year programme (2022 – 2025) to conserve and improve biodiversity in places of worship and public buildings in the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). We have a minimum target of working with ten places, but can work with more if the interest and the funding allows. To date we have undertaken initial inspections and some follow-up bat-specialist inspections at the following churches: St Cadoc, Cheriton; St Illtyd, Ilston; St David, Llanddewi; St Cennydd, Llangennith; St Madoc, Llanmadoc; St Rhidian & St Illtyd Llanrhidian; St Gwynour, Llanyrnewydd; St Illtyd, Oxwich; St Mary, Pennard; St Andrew, Penrice; and, St Mary, Rhossili. Working with the vicars and wardens in each church we are developing actions that will benefit biodiversity and tackle any problem wildlife interactions. Our target species include: bats, swifts, barn owls, pollinators and reptiles. Each church is different and therefore actions will be unique to each church. Some examples of what we hope to achieve are: Replacement of dilapidated doors at the top of tower stairs to keep out bad weather and discourage entry of jackdaws while allowing the continued access by roosting bats; Clearance of old jackdaw nesting material from tower stairwells and floors; Replacement of dilapidated wooden ladders to aid access into the towers for inspections; Installing new swift and barn owl boxes inside tower windows – birds have access to the space inside the box only and the boxes will help to keep out bad weather from the tower; and installation of wildlife cameras to view nesting birds and/or roosting bats from a screen located inside the church, thereby providing an educational opportunity for visitors to the church. The responses we’ve had from the wardens, vicars and church committee have been fantastic and we’re truly excited to see what we will all achieve by the end of the programme.
Ursula Jones – Gower AONB Communities & Nature Project Officer
Mark Barber – Biodiversity Officer & Local Nature Partnership Co-ordinator
19th January 2023