Flowers in St Denis’ churchyard and its management

St Denis' church East Hatley, Cambridgeshire - a Star of Bethlehem growing in the grave of Martha Perkins, 19 May 2014. Photo: Nicola Jenkins.

A Star of Bethlehem growing in the grave of Martha Perkins, 19 May 2014. Photo: Nicola Jenkins.

The Star of Bethlehem (left and above) is one of the many flowers in the churchyard of St Denis – it was photographed on 19th May 2014 during a routine churchyard tidy-up.

From spring there is a profusion of cowslips, cow parsley, bugle, knapweed, ground ivy, vetches, oxeye daisies, bird’s foot trefoil, selfheal, buttercups, clovers and violets.

And throughout the year there is a rich variety of grasses, including quaking grass, and some rarer plants such as the bee orchid.  Daffodils and autumn crocuses are among the not-so-wild flowers planted in the churchyard.

Among the native trees are oak, ash and elm – as well as the spindle, which is said to be a sign of the Roman occupation of Britain.

In June 2012 and building on earlier work, Siân Williams, Conservation Officer at The Wildlife Trust, surveyed the flora and fauna of St Denis churchyard and produced a survey report, map and species list, supplemented by updates in 2014 and 2017:

  • Species list 1978 to 2014 – a spreadsheet listing all the plants, bushes and trees in the churchyard (Wildlife Trust / Excel file).
  • Species list 2012 – a second spreadsheet listing all the churchyard’s plants, bushes and trees (Wildlife Trust / Excel file).
  • Species list 2007 to 2020 – a third spreadsheet listing all the churchyard’s plants, bushes and trees carried out by Dr Jonathan Shanklin, the county’s botanical recorder, on 4 July 2020. He recorded 143 species (Wildlife Trust / Excel file).
  • Species list 1992 to 2021 – a fourth spreadsheet listing all the churchyard’s plants, bushes and trees carried out by Dr Jonathan Shanklin, the county’s botanical recorder following his visit with the Cambs Flora Group on 30 March 2021. He recorded 10 species for the first time, with 18 records being made this year. NB The year of the first sighting and last sighting of a species is noted, as is the frequency of record – these are biased by the fact that the site has not been visited each year and often at different times of year, so an absence of record one year is not necessarily an absence of species (Wildlife Trust / Excel file).
  • Species list, May and July 2023 (Wildlife Trust / Excel file).
  • Site recording card 2012 (Wildlife Trust / Word file).
  • Site recording card 2017 (Wildlife Trust / PDF).
  • Map of St Denis’ churchyard – a Cambridgeshire County Council county wildlife site.
  • Leaflet – St Denis’ churchyard, a County Wildlife Site (Wildlife Trust / PDF).

They compliment the churchyard management plan devised by Rob Mungovan, when he was Ecology Officer at SCDC, for the ideal grass cutting times throughout the year.


Insects in St Denis’ churchyard

Report by John O’Sullivan

While cutting, strimming, raking and carting around St Denis’ on 14 August 2011, the participants came across a variety of wildlife.

Above us, a buzzard (until quite recently, unheard-of in these parts) circled on broad wings and gave its distinctive mewing call.  Plenty of Small White butterflies were enjoying the sunshine and a variety of ladybirds buzzed, or crawled, by.

The purple knapweed flowers at the north end of the churchyard, deliberately left uncut this time, played host to numerous insects, including the attractive, orange and black, Marmalade hoverfly.

On the walls of the church, three species of cricket climbed out of our way; a sombre brown one was the Dark Bush-cricket, a bright green one probably the Oak Bush-cricket, and a Roesel’s Bush-cricket, a relative newcomer to Britain, showed off the distinctive lime-green horseshoe-shaped mark on its side.

John has written two complementary articles:


Gravestones in the churchyard

There are only a few gravestones in the St Denis’ churchyard – the most notable ones are highlighted on our page about the churchyard.

If you’re wondering if any of your ancestors are buried here, do check the list printed in Grave inscriptions 1987.

A wider source of lists of memorial inscriptions (via parish records) in the churchyards of East Hatley, Hatley St George and Little Gransden can be obtained on CD from the Cambridgeshire Family History Society – see their website www.chfs.org.uk.  There is a charge of £9.60 (normally £12.00) for the CD.

Click here for our St Denis’ churchyard photo gallery

Published on the original Hatley website.  Minor changes for this website Dec 2018; updated 20th May 2024.