Wednesday 19 April 2023

March 2023 meeting report

This month Helen Gamble from Lincolnshire Countryside Service spoke to us about God’s Acre; a conservation scheme that supports the wildlife within our churchyards, graveyards and cemeteries. Set up in 2006 within the Wolds, 30% of Churches responded to the initial email and since then it has become a national scheme; not only protecting a diverse range of habitats, but proving a wealth of historic, geological and social information.

Churchyards provide a sanctuary for the living as well as the departed. For our ancestors, churchyards were an extension of the church. It was a meeting place where outdoor festivities would be held, such as ale festivals, archery practice and cock fights! As for the living, we are rarely alone during a visit; our churchyards are home to a wonderfully wide range of flora and fauna, including a rich variety of lichens, moss, grasses, flowers, insects, reptiles, bats and owls.

Many older churches contain grassland that are the remains of ancient meadows which contain our declining flora. Mareham on the Hill has been allowed to grow as a meadow for the last 10 years and is now producing orchids in the area (as a huge orchid lover, I was very excited to hear this news and will be certainly be making a visit!) We were also informed that St Andrews in Utterby has also been designed as a Spring meadow using wildflowers harvested from Red Hill to include cowslips and ox-eye daisies; it looks best between April and May. Wildflower fans… you know where to go!

And for those of us who follow nature’s seasons and the more ancient ways of thinking, we were informed that there is also a Green Man symbol at Mareham (and also Pardney St. Nicholas). And, rarer than the Green Man himself, you can find Sheela-na-gig, the Earth Goddess at Wold Newton All Saints! Raithby also has a green man inside the Victorian stylings as a nod to pre-christian beliefs. Amazing really to when you think about the history, that the early Christians would have adapted local beliefs and deities as a way of incorporating the old with the new!

Churchyards contain some of the oldest trees. Yews, both the common and Irish are commonplace. We were showed an example of a coppiced Ash tree at St Michel’s in Burwell and reminded of the sensitivity needed when dealing with old trees that may be found in these areas. The trees and deadwood provide a habitat for insects to overwinter, which in turn, with the tombs and roof tiles, provide a habitat for bats. We learned that the Lincolnshire Bat Group help conservation by providing free surveys, and raise awareness of due diligence. We were shown photos of bat events which looked really super!

Diverse habitats with a range of grass lengths and nectar sources provide a home for the bees, butterflies, moths, snails, beetles and grasshoppers. Snails are particularly found of graveyards as they use the stone to build their shells! We were shown a photo of a very happy little boy called Nathaniel, who particularly loved the snails on his Scambelsby school visit! God’s Acre do great work by making educational packs for school visits which I personally think is wonderful, we need to be educating our youngsters to secure and look after these diverse habits don’t we? I know that personally, that my days spent in nature were always happiest and stored in my memory.

And it isn’t just children that get their thrills! Apparently, many a scream has been heard from a visitor having a sit down near a compost heap and meeting grass snake basking in the sun! But not just snakes, depending on the underlying soils these areas can also be home to worms, newts, frogs and toads, especially when they are set close by to water. What a wonderfully interesting first half of the talk!

After a lovely cup of tea we went on to look at the geology and history of graveyards. We were told that sheep can help to graze the sandstone bedding planes (Lowton by Spilsby); but to avoid goats, as they may mow the grass but also dance on the tomb stones and can create significant damage! (photos were shown).

Lichen lovers may well find themselves visiting graveyards as headstones are a vital habitat for lichen, especially on the older exposed stone; sadly over zealous cleaning can damage the rare lichens. We were given a great tip however, and rather the cleaning the stones if you photograph them and change the contrast you can still read the inscriptions and support lichen life too! We were reminded that many lichens suffer when headstones are moved, as of course, their environment changes and again, something to be aware of. Lichens are incredibly interesting and a great indicator of pollution. Castor to Tealby have very different lichens due to the pollution coming in from the Trent valley. If you like lichens there are apparently some interesting ones at Hagworthingam growing on the Spilsby sandstone and bivalve fossils at Tealby and Nettleton. Talks have been held by Professor Mark Seawood who runs lichen courses.

In Claxby, West Lindsey you can find leaded lettering, which apparently the lichen love too. Most commonly the metal work found in graveyards is made of cast iron and fairly resistant to weathering, but again, Western pollution coming in from the Trent Valley can erode the metal at a faster rate which was very interesting to know.

Graveyards are a great place to learn more about the geology of a landscape from local stones and bedding planes, as well as the fossils and minerals found there. We live in a non-rocky county, an area of chalk, which interestingly is the youngest stone in the world. Chalk is a soft stone and therefore not suitable for lintels and gales as they are weight bearing; Churches were instead made with local materials such as sandstone (Spilsby), limestone (Tealby) and brick (Ulceby). The materials used can help to chart the development of railways, road networks and canals as a means of transport which would have allowed for more exotic materials to be brought in, such as marble and slate.

The stone work also provides information about open and closed villages (closed being those only that worked on the estate, open being those that would travel or work elsewhere). Lanton by Spilsby and South Elkington used local materials of a closed parish, owned by a large extended family. Tealby and Nettleton were examples of open parishes.

The Rambler’s church, Walesby, would have also been a closed parish. They now have a lovely stained glass window depicting a corn field with ramblers and cyclists which was donated by ramblers who passed through the area. The inscription reads ‘It came to pass that he went through the corn field on the sabbath day’. You can read more about Ramblers Church here:

We learned that Broggling events take place in Lincolnshire (I have never heard of this, but I hope I am right in saying that it means to poke with a stick?) Our local volunteer brogglers found slate headstones that were grassed over at Hemmingby. And at Sutterby, they found human remains proving there was an extension built over the skeletons! For those interested we were told that the archives of Lincoln are an excellent starting point for maps of all Churchyards.

And finally, and poignantly, the stone work provides a wealth of social history - depicting the rise and fall of families, the bonds of marriages, and sadly, the sweep of illnesses through a population. We learned that Horncastle was home to seven stone masons; who made their mark on the stone (3/4 below grass level) so their movements and work can be traced. Large landed families would have specially cut patterns for their gravestones. St Michaels in Burwell was given as an example. All the gravestones were cut from the same quarry with the same initial pattern carved, and the inscriptions to follow over the years. The later inscriptions usually fair worse to weathering, lacking the protection of ‘quarry juice’ - a slight damp varnish which protects the initial carving - how very interesting! Ramblers Church and Viking’s Way have likenesses in the headstones and were given as further examples. Finally, to protect the stones we were told to avoid strimming close to the base of headstones. The metal can damage the stone which allows water to seep in, and in Winter when the water freezes it can pull away the layers of inscriptions.

What a fabulous and educational talk. I know I never really considered the wealth and knowledge, flora and fauna contained in them. I might have myself a new hobby! I hope our readers are inspired to make a visit to some of our lovely churches and graveyards too! Thank you to Helen for an inspiring talk and all our members that come to support the group. For those that couldn’t make it, I hope you enjoyed the synopsis.

We also mentioned the wonderful world of moss, a lovely little programme on the BBC, well worth a watch:
Margaret Barnes

Sunday 30 October 2022

Meeting Report 28th October 2022

Vicki Bush, the Lincs Wildlife Trust's Gibraltar Point Education and Community Officer, and Marine Specialist, gave a talk about plastics pollution of the seas and what we might do mitigate the damage.

Many of us are, of course, aware of the scale of the problem, though we may sometimes feel helpless, the enormity of the issue seeming to be beyond our grasp. And yet Vicki's essential message is that we can all make our contribution in the choices we make every time we go shopping.

For a bit of background take a look at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Blog in which Jade Oliver interviews Vicki Bush.

The Wildlife Trust's President, Liz Bonnen, did much to bring the world's attention to the issue of marine pollution with her film making, in particular the BBC documentary Drowning in Plastic from 2018.

Vicki gave us plenty of ideas for making small changes in our lives that could be parts of the solution rather than contributing further to the problem. Amongst the ideas presented were buying toilet paper from Who Gives A Crap, Beeswax wraps are a great alternative to clingfilm and are available from lots of places, but if you feel really creative you can make your own! The Natural History Museum explains how.

The evening concluded with a lively discussion on what practical steps we could take including taking to task the Local Authority's success or otherwise in reuse and recycling policies.

Thank you very much, Vicky, for an inspirational evening.

Further reading:

Fauna and Flora International, How does plastic pollution affect marine life

What you can do to help the planet: an illustrated guide

Sunday 23 October 2022

Friday 28th October Meeting

Reminder: our next meeting is this Friday, 28th October at 7.30 in the Methodist Church as usual.

We have Vicki Bush of the Lincs Wildlife Trust, coming to give a talk about her work at Gibraltar Point and her interests in marine life and pollution of the seas. It should be a fascinating evening. Everyone is welcome, please tell your friends and relations. There's tea, coffee and biscuits provided!

And some advanced notice, William Bartle will give a talk on the Lincolnshire Chalk Streams on Friday 25th November. 2022

Sunday 9 October 2022

Watch Group Sunday 16th October 2pm

Hello Wildlife Watch Members

It's almost impossible not to notice the dramatic changes to the weather recently - colder mornings and gloomy evenings, blustery winds and wild rain, leaves changing colour. Autumn has certainly arrived!

And there's no better way to experience at first hand these dramatic changes than by taking a stroll through one of our ancient woodlands. So why not join the Louth Watch Group next Sunday when we take a stroll through Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust's own Legbourne Woods for a walk on the wild side!

Our team of nature experts will be there to guide you through the autumn woodland with its magestic oak and ash trees, leaves of every shade from green through orange to gold, undergrowth laden with bright fruits and acorns carpeting the ground. You will see and hear a wide range of birds, butterflies and late flying dragonflies. You may even be lucky enough to spot a deer or two hidden amongst the tall trees!

Children will have opportunities to collect the treasures they find on a journey stick, and to make their own artworks using 'found' art from nature!

Our next meeting is: ‘A Walk on the Wild Side.'

Date: Sunday 16th October
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Place: Legbourne Woods Nature Reserve. Full directions and parking instructions will be sent with your booking confirmation

Please bring suitable clothing with strong footwear and be prepared to spend time outdoors.

This is a free event.

Please book in advance by email to so we have a good indication of how many are likely to attend.

Our Watch Leaders are looking forward to seeing you there!

Keith, for the Louth Wildlife Watch Team

Saturday 1 October 2022

Meeting Report 30th September 2022

 On Friday 30th September 22 we held our AGM (the first for a couple of years!) at the Methodist Church, Louth.

The Chair’s and Treasurer’s reports were mercifully brief as we have done little and spent less over the pandemic years.

The existing committee (Rod Baddon, Jan Boyd, Judith John, Louise Scott and Biff Vernon) were re-elected for another year and Maggie Barnes and Dan James have agreed to join.

The main part of the evening was given over to a talk by Stu West. He gave an update on his previous accounts of the local otters. They are doing well in all the rivers in our neighbourhood and the population is probably close to the maximum potential, otters occupying large territories and pretty intolerant of other otters apart from females with their own offspring. An otter frequently passes up the Lud through Louth town centre, probably feeding on the American signal crayfish. This is to the benefit of the fish as the crayfish eat a lot of fish eggs. It’s one of the ironies of nature that a healthy otter population is good for a healthy fish population.

The rest of Stu’s talk was about ‘rewilding’. Stu emphasised the lack of the truly wild in Britain, one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet. So he took us to India with an account of his visit to the Sariska Tiger Reserve, where he didn’t actually see a tiger but he did hear one and got a photo of a paw print! It was fascinating to learn about the Indian’s attitude to conservation and re-introduction of an apex predator, one might even, very occasionally, eat a person. Start here for more about Sariska.

From India Stu next took us to Italy and the Stelvio National Park in search of wolves. Again this apex predator was elusive but we were introduced to a bearded vulture, Gypaetus barbatus, Europe’s largest bird. Bearded vultures were persecuted to extinction in the Alps by the early 20th century but a successful captive breeding and re-introduction programme over the last forty years has established a growing population, with several breeding pairs in Stelvio. They occupy a unique niche, living almost exclusively on the bones of dead mammals, often the remains of wolf or golden eagle kills. With a pH of 1 their stomachs can digest substantial chunks of bone in hours. Read more at Vulture Conservation Organisation.

We then went to Britain’s most intact wilderness, but it involved a bit of canoeing and snorkelling. The kelp forests off the coast of western Scotland, around Ardnamurchan and the Sound of Arisaig, host the richest biodiversity from the rock-pools crowded with invertebrates to cetaceans that come close to the shores. Stu showed us dramatic film of porpoises close to his canoe. We learnt of the habits of orcas; a once thriving pod based around the Westers Isles has been reduced to just two males, most likely because of a build up of PCBs in their bodies. A happier story comes from the waters around Orkney and Shetland where a pod of thirty or more seem to be thriving. There are occasional orca sightings in the North Sea but it is thought these belong to an Icelandic population that sometimes roams far.

In the Q & A session, Stu was asked which species would be his priority for reintroduction to Britain. Lynx, was his quick reply, adding that wolf would be good (every mainland European country now has wolves, even Belgium and the Netherlands) but unlikely to be acceptable to British public opinion just now. Lynx offer little threat to farm animals, are secretive and avoid humans. Their hunting of deer would not only control deer population, which the farming community have failed to do, but alter the behaviour of deer, changing their grazing patterns in ways that have wider ecological benefits. Read more at Rewilding Britain 

Here's a question posed by Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts:

 Further reading:

Isabella Tree, Wilding

George Monbiot, Feral

George Monbiot, Regenesis

James Rebanks, Shepherd’s Life

James Rebanks, English Pastoral

Lee Schofield, Wild Fell

Others are available.




Thursday 29 September 2022

Friday 30th September Meeting

 Reminder, Louth Area Group of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust meeting Friday 30th September. All welcome, you don't need to be a member.

Details here.

Friday 9 September 2022

Watch Meeting Sunday 18th September


Welcome to the first in our Autumn programme of wildlife events!
We begin with a visit to the very popular Louth canal, a beautiful part of the town which many of you will already be familiar with. But our journey along the banks this time will be anything but familiar! We intend to explore the entire Solar System as we go, discovering each of the planets in turn and uncovering amazing facts about them. Starting from the Navigation Warehouse we will encounter Mars, Jupiter, Neptune and more, finding out water and wildlife related facts about them and comparing their weather to that of our own planet. But don't worry, unlike Voyager 2 which has now travelled out far beyond the Solar System, we intend to return to Earth in good time for some Earthly nature related activities on the boards of the navigation warehouse! Phew! Our next meeting is: ‘Weather, Water and Wildlife.' Date: Sunday 18th September Time: 2pm Place: Louth Navigation Canal Please bring suitable clothing with strong footwear and be prepared to spend time outdoors. Access to toilets and seating is available. This is a free event suitable for accompanied youngsters aged from 4 to 14. Please book in advance by email to so we have a good indication of how many are going to attend.