During the pandemic, Devon’s residents have appreciated the green spaces around their churches like never before and now Devon CPRE is inviting churches of all denominations to enter this year’s competition to find the ‘Best Churchyard’ in the whole of the county.
Following a year with little to celebrate, Devon CPRE applauds the volunteers helping to maintain and ‘green up’ Devon’s churchyards.
During the challenging months of lockdown, many churchyards have become real sanctuaries for the local community – not just for churchgoers. In some places, they are the only public space people can walk to for exercise and to observe nature.
This is the fourth year the Devon countryside charity has held its churchyard awards and it’s hoping to receive more entries than ever by the end of March.
The judges are not seeking the most pristine or manicured churchyards, they are looking for those which are well-managed to provide a peaceful haven for people and wildlife. Each entry is visited by the judges and assessed on a range of criteria, including the measures put in place to increase biodiversity.
Penny Mills, Director of Devon CPRE, says: “Devon has hundreds of beautiful churchyards and they’ve really come into their own during the challenging circumstances of 2020. Residents the length and breadth of Devon have appreciated their local churchyard like never before, so we want to really celebrate these special places in 2021 and celebrate the people who look after them, because they are all volunteers and they do a fantastic job.”
CPRE Devon trustee and fellow churchyard judge Ivan Buxton has been impressed by the standard of entries year on year: “We were particularly impressed by the careful management of these ancient burial grounds to create sanctuaries for the living. Measures to encourage wildlife and biodiversity have included bug hotels, mini-beast trails, ponds, bird boxes, composting areas, wildflower meadows and even gardens producing fruit, vegetables and herbs for parishioners to enjoy.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, last year’s competition had to be run differently to previous years. The judges waited until after lockdown travel restrictions were lifted in the summer to begin their on-site inspections. There was no official prize-giving ceremony in 2020 but the winner and runner-up were presented with their trophies in person, in informal visits observing strict social distancing. This year’s competition will be conducted along similar lines.
Which Devon churchyards will make the shortlist in 2021? As well as the kudos of winning, there’s a top prize of £200 and a beautiful oak plaque, made in Devon from sustainable wood, to display to locals and visitors.
The deadline for entries is 31st March. Full details and an entry form can be found at www.devoncpre.org.uk.