June 30, 2023


By Alec Charles

A church in the Benefice of Lostwithiel has won silver in the Eco Church awards scheme.

St Mary’s Church is renowned for the beauty of its historic architecture and medieval carvings. It sits high on a hill, five miles southeast of Bodmin, about halfway between Lostwithiel and Liskeard.

This prestigious national award recognises the work done by churches to protect the environment. It measures how well churches take care of their land and properties, engage with their local communities and encourage greener lifestyles in their parishes.

A bronze award is considered a significant accomplishment. It’s rarer still for a church to earn the silver award at its first attempt.

“This is a real achievement,” said Ben Lillie, environment officer at the Diocese of Truro. “And the really great news is how the church and the local school partnered together in this essential work.”

Ben was invited to the ceremony at the church on Monday 26th June to present children from Braddock primary school with the award.

“The way the church has engaged with the school and the community is simply amazing,” Ben said. “The children’s commitment is such a great example. I left inspired!”

Ben Lillie

Much of this work has been pioneered by Robert Pearce, churchwarden and mainstay of Braddock Church.

Rob has been involved a range of initiatives to bring the community and local school into the life of the church – from opportunities for young people to practise on the piano or learn to play the handbells, to opening the church through the winter to offer a weekly warm welcome, with soup and hot drinks, for local people.

The church cooperates closely with other key organisations in the area, including the local Methodist chapel and Braddock School.

“The school’s an important part of our worshipping community,” Rob says. “We have a very good relationship with them.”

The church runs an after-school club in partnership with the school, and they’ve also worked closely together in their environmental efforts.

“The school have what they call an eco squad,” Rob explains. “We thought it would be a good plan to involve them as our creation care champions.”

Children from all stages of the school – from the reception class through to year six – have helped both in the churchyard and in the school grounds to sow seeds, plant apple and oak trees, and build a bumblebee garden.

Meanwhile, the church building itself is A-rated on the Diocese of Truro’s energy efficiency scale, and avoids the use of fossil fuels. In fact, its total annual carbon footprint is more than offset by the grass and trees in its grounds.

There are now parts of the churchyard where they’ve chosen to stop cutting the grass so as to encourage wildlife. St Mary’s was registered as a Cornwall Living Churchyard several years ago, and, according to a survey conducted by the Cornwall Wildflower Group, it now hosts 147 different varieties of plants.

The Cornwall Bat Group has also identified five species of bats in the churchyard – Natterer’s, brown long-eared, lesser horseshoes, pipistrelles and soprano pipistrelles.

The church has developed an outdoor reflective area in its grounds. It has its own altar, so that services can be held there in fine weather. People can also use it to sit, reflect, rest or even have a picnic.

As well as providing visitors with leaflets about its wildflowers and bats, and running a wildlife trail through its grounds, Braddock Church is about to launch an online information point. Using the church’s Wi-Fi, people will be able to scan a QR code on their mobile phones to access a wealth of information about the parish, its history and its natural history.

Christian worship has been taking place on the site for 1,400 years, and pilgrims, holidaymakers and locals will now for the first time be able to find at their fingertips a plethora of facts about the church and its environs – from the bronze age to its modern-day flora and fauna. It’s the first church in Cornwall to have introduced this digital facility.

“We do our best to make people environmentally aware – in a nice way,” Rob says.

It’s their enthusiasm for such creative innovations which has fuelled their success, and which has been recognised by their Eco Church award.

“It was very nice to win the award,” Rob adds. “And it was particularly good because the children have been involved in the whole process. Planting trees on a cold winter’s day might not be the most exciting experience you can have at school – but coming back here on a beautiful summer’s day to see their trees and their bee garden, and to be presented with the award, that was very special. It made for a very lovely day, and made us all really feel part of the natural world.”