The winners were announced at the recent RCCE AGM where representatives from the churches attended to receive their awards and certificates.

Overall winner this year was the Church of St Mary & St Christopher, Panfield. The judges were impressed with the planting of flowers and shrubs to attract butterflies and bees and that some areas are left 'wild' and undisturbed for bugs and insects. Bird and bat boxes are available around the churchyard to encourage species to set up nests and special efforts have been made to explain the management of the churchyard to residents and visitors with noticeboards sited around the area guiding visitors on what to look for at different times of the year. The judges were also looking for a balance between encouraging wildlife and an overall ambience which encourages quiet contemplation and peacefulness, and felt Panfield had succeeded in achieving this.

The competition is kindly sponsored by Lodge & Sons (Builders) of Stebbing and Geoff Eveling from Lodge's attended to hand out certificates and the cash awards. Nick Shuttleworth, RCCE Executive Director, was 'delighted with the response to the competition which reflected the diversity of Essex churches and countryside and hopes 2012 will encourage more churches to enter'.

Volunteers at St Nicholas Church, Laindon who won second prize, have a vast churchyard to manage on the edge of Basildon. Again there are lots of special efforts made to encourage wildlife into the churchyard and the bedding areas and planting provide colour and interest. Well placed seating provides stunning views from the hilltop out over the south Essex countryside.

Other winners included St Ethelberts and All Saints, Belchamp Otten, third prize,and St Peter ad Vincula, Coggeshall and St Mary & St Clement, Clavering were awarded Highly Commended certificates.

Churches within Essex and the Chelmsford Diocese area are eligible to enter the competition and this includes areas now considered London Boroughs. Churchyards in these areas often provide a green haven for flora and fauna and have added pressures of development and traffic to contend with. It was pleasing to receive an entry from All Saints Church, Chingford and award them a 'Best New Entry' certificate.

Application forms for next year's competition will be available in Spring 2012 and anyone interested in the competition is encouraged to download the 'Guide to Churchyard Management Plans' available below or contact Sue Sheppard Tel: 01376 574330 or email: