A small village church in Snowdonia has become the first church in Wales to receive a prestigious new ecology award for churches.
St. Gwyddelan’s Church in Dolwyddelan – which lies in the Lledr valley between Betws y Coed and Blaenau Ffestiong and is part of the Bro Gwydyr Ministry Area – has been awarded the Bronze Eco-Church award by A Rocha, an international environment charity with a Christian focus and basis, which is responsible for running the eco-church award in Wales and England.
Sue Layland, the Eco-Church co-ordinator at St. Gwyddelan’s, said: “We are naturally thrilled to be the first Church in Wales to receive our Bronze Eco-Church Award. It has come about thanks to many people doing a little bit, and a desire to keep costs sustainable in a church building that remains true to it’s 16th Century simplicity.
We also support FairTrade and use eco-cleaning products which are not subject to risk assessments. Thinking sustainably and thinking simply has been a guiding framework for this church for a long time and is the essence of environmentalism.”
In working through the process to attain the award, Susan and other people at St. Gwyddelan’s
- changed the light-bulbs to LED bulbs, which reduces health and safety risks and drives down costs, and also improved the lighting.
- Put the lights on timer switches, which meant that visitors to the church did not need to remember to turn lights off when leaving and so reduced electric usage.
- Changed the old storage heaters for more efficient ones, which means better with efficient heating with reduced costs.
- Moved to a managed strimming of the graveyard, which allows desirable wild flowers to grow, whilst reducing costs for regular strimming.
- Installed new bird boxes the churchyard, with advice on siting them given by the RSPB.
- Assisted the local primary school in developing part of their woodlands as a teaching resource.
Mrs. Deirdre Southgate, the Warden at St. Gwyddelan’s said, “It all started back in 1984, when we had to build a shed in the churchyard for storing equipment. It was designed with a turf roof to give good insulation and reduce dampness, but it also allowed it to blend into the scenery and made it more acceptable to neighbours.
Nothing has come to harm! It was originally covered with bilberry plants, with wildlife in mind. Some still remain but other plants have self sown. A start has now been made on introducing wild primroses in our churchyard and more could be done with wild daffodils and other native species.”
The Rev’d Stuart Elliott, Ministry Area Leader of Bro Gwydyr, said: “The Eco-Church awards began in February last year and the people at St. Gwyddelan’s were keen to continue with their work focusing on simplicity and environmental impact.
“As we completed the Eco-Church survey, in trying for this award, it was clear that St. Gwyddelan’s have been on this journey for some time.
“Many of the actions that have been taken were done some time ago, but the local church and the environment are still reaping the benefit. We don’t intend to stop here. We have plans to take this work further and to take some new actions.”
In congratulating St. Gwyddelan’s, the Bishop of Bangor, the Right Reverend Andy John, said: “It is wonderful that 30 years of people’s commitment to loving God and creation has led to this church being the first in Wales to receive this award.
“I do congratulate the people of St. Gwyddelan’s for their work and their example. I’m sure that other churches in the Diocese will want to follow in their footsteps.
The Eco-Church award is an extremely simple way to record your actions for environmental work and to help reduce your carbon footprint. It takes five minutes to register and the survey takes just 20 minutes.
“It offers a benchmark of where a church is as an Eco-Church. I’m sure there will be other places who have been doing good work in this area who could also qualify for an award, helping us on the way to one day being an Eco-Diocese, I hope!”