Parishscapes fund re-development of ancient church

St Mary’s Church, Sticklepath. Copyright Chris Saville

A village church has been awarded funding towards an exciting programme of redevelopment helping to make it an even more welcoming place for all.

Dartmoor National Park Authority has given Belstone and Sticklepath Parochial Parish Council £4,611 from its Parishscapes Grant Fund towards St Mary’s Church, Sticklepath. The money will go towards redeveloping the garden, new seating, new heritage displays and making it more accessible.

Sticklepath Heritage Group will create informative displays as well as interactive audio presentations from historical characters brought to life by members of the local community. The building and garden will be made wheelchair accessible. Volunteers plan to transform the garden so it becomes an inviting outdoor space that people can use for quiet reflection or outdoor meetings.

St Mary’s Church represents nearly 1,000 years of worship in the village and the current building dates from 1875. Threatened with closure in 2010, the community rallied around, raising money to secure the church and its rich heritage for many years to come.

Belstone and Sticklepath Parochial Church Council representative for Sticklepath, Carol Johns said: “We are so grateful for Dartmoor National Park’s support to our little church and our community. We nearly lost St Mary’s at one stage and it was then that local people realised what they valued and needed.

‘Even now with the pandemic restrictions they are looking forward to the annual Christmas activities which bring us safely closer together. We will also provide a place of rest, interest and inspiration for visitors and pilgrims through the village, for example on the Archangel’s Way.”

On behalf of the Sticklepath Heritage Group Derek Moore said: “With this support, we have been given the opportunity to display and develop an understanding of the parish as having a special spiritual history. The community will breathe new life into the building, which will remain a place of worship alongside heritage displays, a quiet meeting space and the themed garden, open for all.”

Parishscapes grants from Dartmoor National Park Authority help local communities come together and develop projects important to them. Grants are awarded to schemes that conserve, enhance or celebrate the cultural, natural and built landscape of a parish and help more people learn about, understand and enjoy Dartmoor’s heritage.

Dartmoor National Park’s Community Engagement Officer Emma Stockley said: “Our hugely successful Parishscapes project, part of the now-finished ‘Moor than meets the eye’ scheme, demonstrated just how important it is to our local communities to have access to funding for heritage projects.

‘It’s been a difficult year for our communities, but it’s heartening and inspiring to see projects like this take shape. We’re really pleased to support this project, which will help the community become more resilient into the future.”

The scheme is supported by South Hams, Teignbridge and West Devon councils. West Devon Borough Council ward member for Sticklepath Cllr Lynn Daniel said: “There has been a place of worship on the site for hundreds of years and St Mary’s remains a valued place in the village of Sticklepath.

‘In recent years St Mary’s has been threatened with closure because of low use but villagers have rallied to keep St Mary’s open and accessible to the public, as well as a place of worship.

‘The current project is a way of maintaining and enhancing the space inside and out. Inside it will provide a destination for visitors and information on the history of the church and village. The outside space will become a meadow of wildflowers, a beehive and an apothecary garden, with space to sit and contemplate.

‘I have supported this project from my locality budget and will be involved in bringing the vision to fruition over the next few months. I am very pleased it has been successful in obtaining a grant to enable it to go ahead.”

The site of the current church is possibly the oldest Chantry in the Diocese of Exeter. During the mid 19th Century the original chapel was destroyed by fire.

Ben Fox

Author: Ben Fox

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