Getting Better Known
St Michael’s Church, Troedyraur, Ceredygion
‘We wanted to involve more of the local community in our church and churchyard as we were at the start of a Places of Worship grant-funded restoration of the church building. We were in need of more volunteers and also ideas for events and interpretation. We were also worried about our retaining wall between the churchyard and the road’.
We contacted Caring for God’s Acre and Harriet Carty came to visit. We discussed possible ways of involving local people and also ideas for the management of the churchyard including the repair of the bulging retaining wall and ivy covered monuments.
Harriet suggested that we hold an event with an expert speaker to gauge interest. We chose the county archivist, Helen Palmer and advertised the event by delivering leaflets to houses throughout the parish. We also put up posters where we could but there were not many places in such a rural parish.
Here is a quote from an excited email sent to Harriet:-
‘Last Wednesday, we held a public meeting, the speaker being the Ceredigion Archivist, talking on what’s in the archives for Troedyraur Parish. To our utter amazement, 93 people turned up!’
At the end of the public meeting we asked if anyone would be willing to become involved in the churchyard and 3 people offered to do a bird survey and to help with an annual work party. A further volunteer (not at the public meeting) did a botanical survey.
We had a very successful work party with 8 people present. We cleared brambles and scrub, trimmed the hedge and generally tidied the site. The group agreed to repeat this annually which will be sufficient to keep on top of the work needed.
Costs and Income
The bulging wall became critical and was not suitable for volunteers to work on being against a road, double skinned and retaining several foot of graveyard soil. We used a contractor for this which cost about £11 000. We were able to secure a grant from the county council for a third of this as the wall is against a road.
The work done by the volunteers did not save us money directly as it is work which would not otherwise have taken place. It does make the place looked well cared for and will prevent management problems building up for the future.
Results and Benefits
We now have a volunteer group of about 8 people who are happy to have an annual work party in the churchyard. This is a good number for the size of site; we can achieve a lot whilst having a sociable time and once a year is an easy commitment for people. We now know what plants and birds are present and although the site did not turn out to have particularly unusual birds or flowers, we have got the botanist and bird watchers interested in the churchyard.
We have also made a great many people aware of our little church, which is not within a village and quite hard to find. There is interest within the parish which was not there before.
Issues and Lessons Learnt
The public meeting and subsequent volunteer groups (bird and plant survey plus work party) took quite a lot of organising. This all coincided with the restoration work within the church and the repairs to the wall. Next time we might spread work out more and build projects more slowly so as to be sustainable.
Conclusions and Next Steps
We would like to install interpretation about the church and churchyard on site as part of our Places of Worship grant.
We are looking to produce a leaflet about the churchyard and also two other nearby churchyards to encourage more visitors to make a mini-trail around the three places. This will be available at visitor information centres and other outlets and will hopefully encourage people to visit the three sites and then perhaps go to the nearby town of Newcastle Emlyn for refreshments.
Caring for God’s Acre Action Pack Sheets
Section D sheet 1 Involving Volunteers
Section D sheet 2 Health & Safety
Section D sheet 4 Telling the Story – Interpretation