Devon’s Best Churchyard Competition


Devon’s churchyards are so much more than burial grounds. They are unique and special places. Green havens of sanctuary for people and wildlife. Some little changed over the centuries.

Last year, we launched our first competition to find the Best Churchyard in the whole of the County. The winner was the parish church of St Andrew in South Tawton.

South Tawton’s churchyard is in a spectacular location, just inside the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park and at the heart of the picturesque village, with far-reaching views of the open moor. However, it wasn’t the setting which impressed the judges when they visited. It was all the work that had been done to create, in the judges’ words, “An amazing and revealing place with a lot of evidence of management for wildlife… an area that gives off an atmosphere of tranquillity and contemplation.”

Following the success of the inaugural competition in 2018, we are delighted to be organising it again this year and hope even more churches will enter. The judges are not seeking the most pristine or manicured churchyards. They are looking for those which are well managed to provide both a peaceful haven for people and wildlife. We encourage entries from churchyards of all denominations.

Could your local churchyard be this year’s winner? There’s a top prize of £200 and a beautiful plaque from sustainable wood, made in Devon, for the winner and runners up to proudly display. Details and an entry form are in the links below

Best Churchyard Competition 2019
Entry Form Churchyard Competition 2019

2018 CPRE Devon announces winners of its first competition to find Devon’s Best Churchyard

The parish church of South Tawton, on the northern edge of Dartmoor, has taken the prize as Devon’s Best Churchyard of 2018, in our new annual competition Kenn and East Budleigh were joint runners-up; Throwleigh, Ilfracombe, and Spreyton were all highly commended.

The results were announced on Saturday 10th November at a ceremony in the historic Church House at South Tawton, beside the now award-winning churchyard. Prizes were presented by the Archdeacon of Totnes, the Venerable Douglas Dettmer.

We launched the competition in the spring to celebrate the pivotal role of churches of all denominations in communities across Devon and the unique part churchyards play in our cherished landscape – as peaceful havens for wildlife and people.

The judges visited every churchyard that entered and were impressed by the variety and individuality of the entrants. South Tawton was named winner because it met all the main criteria of the entry recommendations and exceeded some of them. The judges’ verdict: “An amazing and revealing place, a lot of evidence of management for wildlife, yet it was still an area that gave off an atmosphere of tranquility and contemplation.”

Collecting the award on behalf of South Tawton, church warden John Candler said, “We’re absolutely delighted to have won, over the moon. It’s a lot of hard work, but well worth it and it’s a lovely place to work. Looking after our churchyard is a real team effort.”

The winners were presented with a cheque for £200, a congratulatory plaque in sustainable oak made by Devon company Inspirwood, and corporate membership of CPRE Devon for one year.

CPRE Devon’s spokesperson on wildlife, Ivan Buxton, judged the competition along with CPRE Devon Director, Penny Mills. After the prize-giving, Ivan said, “There are some 900 churchyards in Devon and they are extremely important for wildlife. Some have taken their wildlife responsibilities to the point where they do surveys of lichen, butterflies, and birds. So, they really do enjoy looking after their grounds for the wildlife.”

Penny Mills added: ‘Churches and churchyards are islands of sanctuary for people and wildlife in an ever changing landscape. Some haven’t changed for 1,000 years. They are unique and special places and we thank everybody who looks after them. The purpose of our new competition is to highlight the importance of churchyards and how they can be best looked after. What we discovered is what a fantastic job you all do. It’s our intention to run this competition annually and we will produce a short document teasing out the golden threads of best practice. This will be available on our website as well as details of next year’s competition.’

Devon’s historic churches play a pivotal role in our rural communities and form a unique part of our cherished landscape. After all, they are the only unchanged places in some parishes since Saxon times. Churchyards therefore provide ideal habitats for our precious wildlife.

CPRE Devon are pleased to announce a new competition for 2018 to determine ‘Devon’s Best Churchyard’.

The competition aims to recognise and reward Devon’s churchyards which are well managed to provide both a peaceful haven for people and wildlife. We encourage entries from churchyards of all denominations. With a top prize of £200 available, details and an entry form are in the links below.

churchyard competition 2018

Entry Form Churchyard Competition 2018

So if you think your churchyard is good for wildlife and/or is a special sanctuary for people, please enter our free competition!

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