Hartlepool church earns gold national award for environmental work

Hartlepool’s oldest church has been awarded the North East’s first Gold Eco Award for its work caring for the environment.
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St Mary Magdalene Church, in Hart, is the only church in the North-East to have received this award and only one of 25 nationwide to earn it.

The church, which dates back to 675 AD, was limited in what changes it could make to its grade one listed building, but managed to install LED lights throughout the building to save on energy.

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The eco-team also installed a hedgehog box, bat box and bug hotels as well as wildflower areas.

Reverend Janet Burbury (left) and local resident and eco team member, Hilary Squire.Reverend Janet Burbury (left) and local resident and eco team member, Hilary Squire.
Reverend Janet Burbury (left) and local resident and eco team member, Hilary Squire.

The Reverend Janet Burbury said: “It has been a real case of everyone pulling together to make this happen.

"We had people coordinating – eco-team members Hilary Squire and Luke Mason – and that was important but it was a collective effort from the parishioners, people locally and we even involved the local Beavers and Scouts and nearby schools.

"We were on a mission to reduce our carbon footprint for several years and as we kept on reducing it, the list of things we did just got longer and longer.”

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Bird feeders, bird boxes and bird watering stations were also added and, most recently, an owl box.

Reverend Janet Burbury at St Mary Magdalene Church, in Hart Village.Reverend Janet Burbury at St Mary Magdalene Church, in Hart Village.
Reverend Janet Burbury at St Mary Magdalene Church, in Hart Village.

Some of the trees in the church’s community garden were also replaced.

The Rev Burbury said: ”Old buildings can be part of the solution. You just do what you can, where you can, when you can.”

Hilary Squire, who co-ordinated the outdoor work, said: “It sounds as though you need a lot of land to win an award like this but you don’t.

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"There’s a church in central London which has a gold award, so they can be achieved even in urban areas.”

This is the first time the church has won the gold award, receiving a silver award in 2021 and bronze in 2019.

In their bid to achieve gold, the church conducted several surveys and questionnaires to get the community involved.

The Rev Burbury said: “What has been really exciting is seeing the community get involved with the work inside and outside the church but also in other ways, the changes that individuals make and commit to.”