Despite its small size, Woodbury Park Cemetery is a significant refuge for plants and animals within a densely built-up area. Because it was carved out of unimproved grassland, it retains a wide variety of flowering plants including red clover, pignut, wild strawberry and lady's smock. As a result of agricultural 'improvement', natural flower-rich grassland like this is increasingly scarce in the wider countryside, often surviving best in enclaves like churchyards and cemeteries. As part of the biodiversity plan, some areas are being left uncut through the growing season to foster wild flowers and protect the habitat of caterpillars and other insect life.
As the cemetery also has many trees, including yew and Scots pine, some flowers more characteristic of woodland may also be seen. These include lesser celandine, wood anemone and dog violet. Between 1970 and 1998, local botanist Mary Page built up a list of over 150 flowering plants and ferns from the site.
Because of its floral diversity, the cemetery supports a wide variety of insects and other small wildlife. Butterflies include grassland species like the Meadow Brown, and others like the Speckled Wood which prefer more shady locations. There are six species of bumblebees, and an extensive list of solitary bees and wasps, many of which nest in burrows in sunny banks. Further recording through the 2007 season will reveal more of the fauna of this interesting site.
Whitetailed bees, ringed hover flies, antennaed wasps, fringed woodlice and and robber flies were among the insects excitedly examined through magnifying glasses by local children and their parents during during nature trails led by Dr Ian Beavis round Woodbury Park Cemetery. One of the children is seen here with her bugbox ready to capture some of the scurrying inhabitants of a yellow meadow ants nest being uncovered by Dr Beavis.
White nights at Woodbury Park Cemetery
Annual moth surveys are identifying a wide range of night flying insects.
One of the pleasures WPC offers is its birdlife. Though lying in the heart of Tunbridge Wells, much of its surrounding built-up area dates from late Victorian times. There are plenty of mature trees, shrubs and undergrowth nearby to add a much wider habitat in which birds can flourish.
Many common garden species can be seen and heard regularly: blackbird, song thrush, robin, chaffinch, greenfinch, blue tit, great tit, long tailed tit, wren, collared dove, wood pigeon, magpie, carrion crow. Further, with so many conifers, there is an established community of goldcrests and coal tits. It is always a joy to welcome back in early summer swifts who nest nearby, chiff chaff, blackcap and the occasional garden warbler. Other sightings noted are jay, sparrowhawk, and also fieldfare later in the year. Try the RSPB site on our Links page for videos and sound tracks to help you tell your blackcap from your warbler.
Two nest boxes have recently been installed. If they are successful, others are planned.
Do tell us of any interesting sightings there.
Email Sue Fitzwater (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Slides of inhabitants of Woodbury Park Cemetery
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