Devon’s Best Churchyard Competition

Devon’s Best Churchyard Competition 2020 – Competition open!

Entries are invited from churches of all denominations from across the county to enter our Devon’s Best Churchyard Competition 2020. Entry is FREE – and entries must be received by 31st March 2020. Application form and more information below.

“Devon has hundreds of churchyards and they are beautiful places,” says Penny Mills, Director of CPRE Devon. “That’s why we believe in celebrating them and celebrating the people that look after them – because they are all volunteers and they do a fantastic job.”

“Over hundreds of years, Devon’s churchyards have come to form part of the county’s rich and varied landscape. Some churchyards have changed little over the centuries. They are much more than burial grounds or simply open spaces around church buildings; they are unique and special havens, green sanctuaries for people and wildlife.”

We held the competition for the first time in 2018, attracting eighteen entries. The winner was the parish church of St Andrew’s in South Tawton, just inside the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park. South Tawton’s churchyard has far-reaching views of the open moor, however, it wasn’t the setting which most impressed our judges when they visited. It was all the work that had been done to create an amazing place with a lot of evidence of management for wildlife.

In 2019 the competition attracted even more interest with the number of entries up by a third on the inaugural year. This time around it was East Devon’s turn to triumph. All Saints Church in East Budleigh was declared the 2019 winner at a prize-giving reception at Exeter Cathedral. The awards were presented by the Bishop of Exeter himself, the Rt Rev Robert Atwell, who chairs the Church of England’s Rural Affairs Group. Oak plaques were also awarded to Ilfracombe and Molland, joint runners-up, and to Kingsbridge, Dalwood and Littleham, near Exmouth, who were all highly commended.

We hope this gathering momentum will continue in 2020. The judges are not seeking the most pristine or manicured churchyards. They are looking for well-managed churchyards which provide a peaceful haven for people and wildlife. Each entry is visited by the judges and assessed on a range of criteria.

CPRE Devon trustee and churchyard judge Ivan Buxton has been impressed by the standard of entries: “Throughout the judging, we found hardly any litter and 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 included bug hotels, mini-beast trails, an amazing pond, bird boxes, composting areas, some beautiful wildflower meadows and even gardens producing fruit, vegetables and herbs for parishioners to enjoy.”

He says, “Churchyards are true oases of tranquillity in our increasingly busy lives. Hallowed grounds which deserve to be celebrated as part of the rich tapestry of Devon’s landscape. The people who work so hard to maintain churchyards deserve special praise.”

Which Devon churchyards will make the shortlist in 2020? As well as the kudos of winning, there’s a further incentive – 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 March 31st. Full details and an entry from can be downloaded here

Best Churchyard Competition 2020

Entry Form Churchyard Competition 2020

We are looking forward to this year’s competition.

Devon’s Best Churchyard 2019 is…..
All Saints, East Budleigh

Many Congratulations!

Judges’ Comments

Winning Entries – 2019
The quality of all the entries was high and the Judges were very impressed by the general standard.

Inevitably there will be disappointed applicants. They should not be discouraged. Determining winning entries from an exceptional selection meant there was a very fine margin between not quite receiving an award and success!

The notes made by the judges at the time of their visit are not intended to be all embracing and if something was missed or could be open to other interpretation, you have their sympathy, but as any referee will tell you, the decision is final!
Congratulations to all entrants. The winning churchyards are delightful and the Judges express the hope that the following comments might be helpful to all concerned in making this an extremely open competition.

WINNER. East Budleigh: The volunteer team presented an excellent entry application. The detail was second to none. Maintenance, planting and habitat management followed the publicly displayed plan. Extra effort entailed visiting many conservation churchyards in the South West. The standard throughout was excellent, meeting the Judge’s criteria and substantially improved on the 2018 entry.
RUNNER UP. Ilfracombe: People and wildlife clearly love this churchyard. The continued care and attention, embracing wide sections of the community and enhancing the wildlife habitat has paid dividends. A number of innovative aspects, such as planted areas for fruit, vegetable and herbs were of special interest.
RUNNER UP. Molland: The provision of a ‘pit stop’ for walkers and cyclist was unique among the competition entries. As were the ‘welcome’ notices for spiders made by the children on the bug house! Thought had gone into providing for people and wildlife.
HIGHLY COMMENDED. Dalwood: The welcome notice on the church door was both humorous and all embracing. Promoting the CPRE competition caught the Judge’s eye.
HIGHLY COMMENDED. Kingsbridge: The pic-nic tables and ‘Mini-Beast Trail’ encouraged young and old to take time out here and enjoy a break away from the town centre and retail park just a stone-throw away.
HIGHLY COMMENDED. Littleham-cum-Exmouth: The sheer size of this churchyard is a mammoth undertaking to keep under control, yet has been achieved, mainly through the efforts of one man. The variety of habitat, attention to detail and careful management are noteworthy.
Thank you everyone who took time to enter our competition, it was a pleasure to undertake the visits. We look forward to next year’s competition.

2019 Results and Prize giving tea – 25th September 2019.

We have very much enjoyed visiting every corner of the County visiting all the churchyards who have entered our competition in its second year. We received more entries this year, and a huge variety, which has been fantastic – thank you to everybody who entered for your support – so its taken a bit of time to get to them all!

We’ve discovered lots of bug hotels along the way, magnificent yew trees, an amazing pond, a mini-beast trail, bird boxes, pretty flower and shrub beds, lots of wild flowers, butterflies and bees, beautifully looked after and cared for churchyards, hardly any litter, and just really tranquil places to be. Well done to all the volunteers who look after them – you do a great job.

We have organised a special Awards Tea at which the results will be announced, to which all the entrants have been invited, to take place on 25th September 2019, at The Chapter House, Exeter Cathedral, and we are thrilled and very grateful that the Bishop of Exeter will be joining us for the occasion. We are really looking forward to it.


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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