With its medieval tower and its Pre-Raphaelite stained glass, the Church of St Andrew in Stratton is a quietly beautiful place, one which has managed over the centuries to retain its character and grace even as it’s kept up with the best of its times.

In recent months and years, its parishioners have come to focus increasingly on the church’s duties of care for the natural world in this era of climate emergency and biodiversity crisis.

“It needs to be brought to everyone’s attention that the environment is in a dire state,” churchwarden Val Hopper explains. “If the church can do its bit, that’s as it should be.”

The local vicar agrees. Rector to the Benefice of North Kernow, the Reverend Teresa Folland had first developed an interest in such matters while studying for her ordination.

“That’s where my passion for the environment had begun to grow,” she recalls.

At the end of last month, Teresa conducted a special service for people from across her benefice to celebrate creation care. The service was supported by eight new local worship leaders, with the sermon preached by the Reverend Ben Lillie, Environmental Officer at the Diocese of Truro.

When she’d first arrived in this north Cornish benefice, Teresa had quickly started to recruit people who shared her enthusiasm to develop initiatives in this area.

“A few people caught the bug of creation care,” she says. “What’s amazing is how all this has happened without much input from me – apart from my enthusiastic support! It’s been great to sit back and see these people do these great things.”

One of the latest projects devised by those who’ve caught that environmentalist bug has been to build an actual bug hotel.

The plan to develop high quality accommodation for the local population of invertebrates was led by the church’s creation care champion Sheila Waring and its school liaison officer Judy Dunne, along with churchwardens Val Hopper and Diana Ohlson, and Val Barker, worship leader and chair of the Friends of St Andrew’s.

The church team have been working closely with Stratton Primary School on this initiative and on the development of a wild area of the churchyard. They’ve consulted closely with the school council, comprising children from all years, and have enlisted the help of the schoolchildren’s environmental group to support the work of planting and creating new amenities for the churchyard’s wildlife.

“One little boy wanted a river installed,” Judy recalls. “We felt it was a bit beyond our means, but we’re going to have a pond, so we can encourage all the little water beasts!”

They’ve incorporated into their big bug hotel smaller insect lodgings made by a dozen of the children at home.

“These children are really aware and concerned about the environment,” Judy says. “They want to make things better. That’s very positive.”

Churchwarden Diana Ohlson recalls the day the bug hotel was installed: “It was terrible weather. The kids all got so wet and muddy, but there wasn’t a single complaint. They were so happy. They loved it.”

The schoolchildren were also involved in the planting of a sapling from the Darley Oak, a historic tree, said to be a thousand years old, that stands on the edge of Bodmin Moor.

The church ran a special ceremony to bless this unique gift which the children from Stratton Primary helped to plant.

“From their age today, these children will live to see that new tree flourish and grow,” Val Barker says.

She’s pleased that their churchyard is attracting visitors to its natural beauty and peace. “People come up here who don’t necessarily ever go into the church,” she says.

The church itself includes an area where people are encouraged to pray for the future of the natural environment, and is working to develop its own dedicated creation care chapel. Out in the churchyard, they’re developing a space for quiet contemplation which mirrors a similar space inside the church. They plan for it to include a covered seating area bedecked with climbing plants.

They’ve also started putting bird boxes into the churchyard and have plans to add more.

“There might even be an opening for an owl box!” Sheila grins.

Along with special events for local children to mark Easter, Christmas and the Harvest Festival – as well as Epiphany, Mothering Sunday and Pancake Day – they recently ran a lively discussion for the school’s Year 6 pupils about whether the Christian story of the Creation conflicted with or complemented the scientific explanation for the evolution of life on Earth.

“That was quite a big question!” Reverend Teresa laughs.

They’re also progressing plans to develop a children’s corner in the church.

“It’s great to have the kids involved in the life of the church,” Sheila says. “And we’re hoping to get even more local people involved too.”

Val H, Diana, Sheila, Val B, Judy and Revd Teresa