Is your local churchyard one of the loveliest in Devon?

  Posted: 16.02.21 at 08:30 by Philippa Davies

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Devon’s Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is inviting nominations for its 2021 ‘best churchyard’ competition, and is expecting a large number of entries.

The charity says local people have appreciated the green spaces around their churches ‘like never before’ during the Covid pandemic, with many churchyards becoming ‘real sanctuaries’ for the local community to exercise and observe nature, not just for churchgoers.

The charity has praised the volunteers who have maintained Devon’s churchyards throughout the pandemic and lockdowns.

The competition is open to churches of all denominations, and entries need to be submitted by March 31.

What will the judges be looking for?

The judges are not seeking to reward 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 church put forward will be 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, said: “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.”

This is the fourth year the CPRE in Devon has held the competition.

Trustee and churchyard judge Ivan Buxton has been pleased with the standard of entries year on year: “We are 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.”

Competition went ahead last year despite pandemic

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, last year’s competition had to be run differently to those of 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.

The winning church will receive £200 and a beautiful oak plaque, made in Devon from sustainable wood, to display to locals and visitors.

For more information and to download the entry form, visit the CPRE website

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