St Martin’s in Liskeard has earned a prestigious silver award in the national Eco Church scheme which recognizes the environmental efforts made by churches in partnership with their local communities.

The work towards the award was coordinated by Mike Sturgess, treasurer at St Martin’s parochial church council.

“I’m delighted,” he says. “It shows our church is serious about the diocesan policy to cherish the natural environment.”

St Martin’s is well-known for its living churchyard. A lot of effort has gone into the managed process of its rewilding – including the installation of birdboxes and hedgehog ramps, and the reintroduction of wildflowers, led by local parishioner Tony Piper.

The Eco Church awards also recognizes the church’s commitment to source its refreshments through exclusively fairtrade routes.

“It’s not always easy to find, as I also like to shop locally,” says volunteer Anne Purdon, who buys the refreshments for the church. “But it’s important because it’s giving the people who grow the produce their fair share of the profits.”

The award also recognizes the church’s lease and ongoing redevelopment of an area of land known as Maudlin Field which lies between the nearby St Martin’s School and two Liskeard housing estates. The church is working in partnership with the primary school to develop the field into a resource for the community and has attracted funding to run a nature project led by children at the school.

“We successfully got a grant to put in a community garden and plant a fruit orchard,” Mike explains. “This was something that was a passion for our former curate, who’d seen the positive impacts of community gardens in other places. From the church’s perspective, it’s about working with the community and with the school. It’s about serving the community.”

One of the church volunteers working on the project is Festo Kanungha.

“It’s about exposing the church to the community, to give the community a chance to see what the church is doing, and to involve the community in the church’s work,” he says.

Festo has been collaborating with a volunteer called Michael, who’s been maintaining the area for several years, much to the gratitude of the local community. They’ve since been joined by other volunteers.

“Michael said he’d love to have other people supporting his work on the field,” Festo says.

Together, they’ve already erected goalposts so that young people can play football on the field, and have also installed benches.

“We’re in the process of putting in raised beds for growing vegetables,” Festo adds. “We’re hoping the community will join in the creation of these vegetable plots. The school’s also really keen and happy to join in.

So far, the church has run an open-air Sunday service and a public picnic at the field, and has even had a tent offering hot drinks and cake for the local community. It’s these engagements with the community in caring for the local environment that secured St Martin’s its Eco Church award.

“St Martin’s have always been pioneers and early adopters of Creation Care work in our diocese,” says the Reverend Ben Lillie, Environment Officer at the Diocese of Truro. “This Eco Church Silver award is an outstanding achievement, and we are so grateful for their continued commitment to cherish creation, cut carbon and speak up.”

St Martin’s Church has also this month launched a major fundraising campaign to restore its church hall buildings and reduce their carbon footprints.

For the first six weeks of the funding drive, the insurance company Aviva has pledged to match contributions up to £250 for each individual donation, up to a maximum of £50,000.

This initial fundraising campaign aims at raising between £25,000 and £50,000 in donations from the general public, matched by Aviva’s contributions, to pay for the hall’s most urgent repairs.

In its first 48 hours, the campaign, launched on 16 October, raised more than £10,000.

The hall was originally built as a school in the middle of the nineteenth century and today serves as a hub for a broad range of church and community activities, including a popular toddlers group, dance sessions, arts and crafts, quilting and karate, all adding to an average annual footfall of 32,000 visits.

But the buildings cost the earth to heat and suffer badly with damp.

The project design phase of the project, and the application for planning permission and listed buildings consent, has been supported by a £22,000 grant from Cornwall Council’s Community Capacity Fund.

The initial implementation stage of the restoration project is scheduled to focus on the replacement of the roof and guttering and the installation of insulation, solar panels and battery storage.

“As an old grade II listed building, there’s no insulation anywhere, so the energy usage is huge. It’s the equivalent of having four kettles boiling water every minute of every day of the year,” says Mike Sturgess. “Having completed the planning phase of the project, the next stage truly gets us onto the journey to solving the damp issues, protecting the buildings for future generations, and helping the climate crisis by making the centre net zero. Our ultimate aim is to generate more energy than we use.”

The church was this month awarded a prestigious silver award in the national Eco Church scheme, which recognises efforts to protect the environment and combat climate change. Its initiative to introduce these green upgrades to its community-facing facilities represents the latest stage in St Martin’s strategy to meet its commitments to the Church of England’s net zero carbon target for 2030.

It is hoped that the work will start in the spring of 2024. It is expected to take several years to complete all the planned phases of the restoration project, with total projected costs of £750,000.

The fundraising efforts are being coordinated by church administrator Tiffany Biddle.

“It’s important to maintain the buildings for the community who come in and use them,” she says. “We want to make it a great environment for the groups that use it. As a building that’s been at the centre of the community since it was built in 1865, we want to restore it for use by generations to come. The restoration will keep down energy costs and reduce our carbon footprint, which is of course so essential in the current climate.”

As the appeal was launched, Cornwall Councillor for Liskeard Central Nick Craker visited the church hall and expressed enthusiastic support for the restoration project as he was shown around the buildings by PCC treasurer Mike Sturgess.

More information about the fundraising campaign can be found by clicking here.

Mike Sturgess with Councillor Nick Craker