Sharow church wins prestigious eco award celebrating decades of conservation efforts

Jemima Parker, Diocesan Environment Officer, presenting the awardto William Howe, a young member of the congregation, and churchwarden Simon Grenfell, with the Rev Ruth Newton. Picture: Joe Priestley.
Jemima Parker, Diocesan Environment Officer, presenting the awardto William Howe, a young member of the congregation, and churchwarden Simon Grenfell, with the Rev Ruth Newton. Picture: Joe Priestley.

The conservation efforts of St John's Church in Sharow have been recognised with a prestigious bronze Eco-Church award.

Only the fifth church from the Diocese of Leeds to be given the accolade, the two-acre churchyard at St John's has been managed by dedicated volunteers for the last 25 years, who have nurtured a paradise for rare species of plant life, animals, and insects, with increasingly rare MG5 grassland described as a 'time capsule' for Britain's meadows.

The award, presented by Jemima Parker, Diocesan Environment Officer to William Howe, a young member of the congregation, and churchwarden Simon Grenfell, comes after the church launched an annual Cherishing Churchyards week as part of a national campaign fronted by the Prince of Wales.

The heritage learning officer, Joe Priestley, worked closely with local primary schools, charities and community groups to open up the churchyard to new audiences, inspiring them to complete biodiversity surveys, moth captures and churchyard trails.

During the week, Steve Tomlin, one of the country's leading experts on scything, helped volunteers to cut grass using the church's new scythes.

Joe said: "We are delighted to have been given this award, and we couldn't have done it without the hard work of all of our volunteers.

"We are really keen on preserving the environment, and churches can be a real beacon for that. We are proud to be helping to lead the way, and I think we are well on our way to achieving a silver award.

"As the award was being given to us, a little boy ran up, and I think for me it was a beautiful moment that really captured the message of what we have been doing - the importance of making sure that we continue to preserve the environment and the church for future generations.

"We want to go further with our aspirations and get a gold award eventually. It was wonderful to see the churchyard so alive."

Volunteer Simon Warwick, said: "What is very nice is the number of species seen in recent years, it really is quite exciting. It really goes to demonstrate what sympathetic management can do.”

The Rev Ruth Newton at St John's said: “Respecting and caring for the world God created is an important part of the church’s mission, this is why have we worked towards eco-church status.

“One of the cornerstones of this is how we manage our churchyard in ways that increase biodiversity."

To help preserve the churchyard at St John’s, email joepriestley@riponcathedral.org.uk.