Kettlewell Churchyard Project
Drone image of Churchyard & Church © Sara Spillett, 2020
St Mary's, Kettlewell, Churchyard Project
In November 2018 a Churchyard Project Group was established by the PCC with a
working brief to research several areas of interest that would enhance the use of the
churchyard for both people and wildlife.
We wanted to provide both helpful factual information about what could be discovered in
the churchyard and church building, as well as creating imaginative resources that might
offer personal and spiritual support for visitors and locals alike.
Over the last three years a good deal of the project has slowly come to fruition.
Main Interpretation Board
The creation of an interpretation board standing just beyond the lychgate now signposts
the areas of factual and personal interest that visitors to the churchyard might wish to
• the timeline of the 800-year-old history of a Christian church on this site
• graves and memorials including a Grade-II-Listed grave slab
• the biodiversity of wildlife and plants in the churchyard
• the Words in Wood found along the pathways
• the Meadow Labyrinth
Helen Motley’s Grave Slab
We began our work by researching a 17th-century grave slab that had been Grade-II-listed
in 1989 but was now on the Yorkshire Dales National Park ‘at-risk’ list due to weathering.
Our historical investigation revealed the grave slab belonged to a woman named Helen
Motley (1646-1695). She was the great granddaughter of Sir Marmaduke Wyvill, the first
member of Parliament for Richmond. When Helen married the Rev Henry Motley in 1670
the couple moved to Kettlewell where Henry succeeded his father as vicar. After Helen
died here, Henry remained Vicar of Kettlewell until his own death in 1699.
In order to establish the security of the inscription for all to see, we designed a small
interpretation board and placed it near the grave slab so that people wandering through
the churchyard would be able to learn something of Helen’s hidden story.
The Christian theology of creation and incarnation calls us as a church community to care
deeply about our planet’s created life. In the light of that, we began to research the
diversity of life in our churchyard. Our aim was to ensure that the future management of
the churchyard would support the animal and plant life to thrive.
In June 2019 we invited the Botany Group of the Upper Wharfedale Field Society to do a
botanical survey of the churchyard as part of their 70th Anniversary Project. We
discovered that at that time of year the churchyard is home to over sixty types of
wildflowers. We were able to publish a small illustrated booklet of the wildflowers, grasses
and trees surveyed on 4 June, 2019.
One of the objectives of this part of the Churchyard Project was to provide educative
opportunities for young people to learn about the importance of supporting biodiversity.
Playhouse, a parish-wide young people’s group, were involved in two successful
workshops. In the first of these the young people learned about bird habitat and then
made seven bird nesting-boxes. In the second, they explored the life of a hedgehog. Two
of the young people subsequently made a hedgehog house for the churchyard.
With the support of the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust the next workshop for young
people is looking at bee and insect habitat and will include the building of a mini-beast
hotel for the churchyard.
In March 2021 we held an open Kettlewell Churchyard Bird Watch Week during which the
local primary school children took part. In the summer of 2021 there will be a day long
Wildlife Watch culminating in a Labyrinth Walk for Nature.
Words in Wood
As part of the project’s desire to support the personal and spiritual lives of those who
wander the churchyard, we worked on creating two particular resources. The first of these
are the Words in Wood. These are locally crafted oak boards with inscribed quotes from
Hebrew and Christian scripture, poetry and medieval mystics. They are in place along the
pathways of the churchyard and offer a simple, reflective space ‘along life’s way’.
The second resource was the creation of the Meadow Labyrinth.
Since its installation in May 2020, people of all ages are discovering that walking the
single path of the labyrinth often has a calming, de-stressing or re-balancing effect on
body, mind and spirit. The labyrinth offers a structured yet non-prescriptive experience for
the walker. It is a path on which to walk with our sorrows, gratitude, fears, hopes and
questions … or simply to enjoy its beauty.
Click below for more information on the Meadow Labyrinth.
Small Pilgrim Places Network
One of the outcomes of the Churchyard Project has been the welcome of St Mary’s
Churchyard and Church into the national network of Small Pilgrim Places. This network
publicises places around the UK where pilgrims can experience ‘welcoming and inclusive
spaces for pondering; simple, quiet and unpretentious, with the presence of the Divine’.
Click below for a link to the Small Pilgrim Places Network.
CPRE, The Countryside Charity, awarded St Mary’s Churchyard, Kettlewell - The Best North Yorkshire Churchyard 2021.