Urban cemeteries, such as Ford Park, are important for nature conservation as they provide a refuge for wildlife in a landscape where many habitats have been lost to development. Plants exist here free from chemicals, enabling other wildlife, such as insects and birds, to flourish.
Butterflies benefit from the resulting diversity of flowering plants, with twenty-three species being regularly recorded, including Large and Small Skippers and Wall Brown. Birds are always evident, but particularly so in spring and autumn, and Grey Squirrels and Rabbits are present throughout the year, but there are wildlife communities which are less obvious, but just as important.
Lichens which can be quite beautiful are often overlooked. They have long been known as excellent indicators of air quality. Cemeteries and churchyards and the headstones they contain are nationally important for lichen conservation. Lichens are two plants in one: a fungus which forms the visible body, and an algae that provides nutrition by utilising sunlight.
MOTHS AND BATS
There are about 2500 species of moth in this country, many of which are even more colourful than butterflies. Some, such as Burnet Companion are day flying, but most appear after dark, as do the bats which feed on them. A bat survey conducted prior to the restoration of the Victorian Chapel in 2009 found a roosting colony of Brown Long-eared Bats, and Pipistrelles, Britain's most common bat species, hunt over the Cemetery on summer evenings. The Trust holds public events which offer opportunities to find out more about these mysterious creatures. See Events
A healthy population of Wood Mice, together with Field Vole and Common Shrew were found during a small mammal survey carried out in 2011 by Plymouth University. Being mainly nocturnal these creatures are rarely seen, but they are thriving here in the less formal areas of the cemetery. Another shy mammal, the Hedgehog, once common, is now only occasionally seen shuffling through the grass. The scarcity here reflects a national decline in this shy and endearing mammal.
Invertebrates, animals without backbones, include worms, slugs and snails, spiders and the most diverse group of organisms on earth, insects. There are probably more than 100,000 species in Britain alone and this abundance of species is mirrored here in Ford Park. For every butterfly, bee or beetle there are countless ants, bugs and flies living their lives unseen. Some of the more obvious insects are beetles which include ladybirds and the leaf eating Chrysolina banksii, pictured.
To find out more about our miniature wildlife join us on our yearly Bug Hunt held in conjunction with Wild about Plymouth.