CAPTION: The parish church of South Tawton wins Devon’s Best Churchyard 2018 competition

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

Posted: 14th November, 2018

The parish church of South Tawton, on the northern edge of Dartmoor, has taken the prize as Devon’s Best Churchyard of 2018, in a competition organised by the Devon branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Kenn and East Budleigh were joint runners-up; Throwleigh, Ilfracombe, and Spreyton were all highly commended.

The results were announced on Saturday 10 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.

CPRE Devon 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.”