St Ishmaels




SITE : St Ishmael’s Church, Monkhaven, Pembrokeshire SA62 3ST


St Ishmael’s church is in a small, remote Pembrokeshire village and the church is down a lane beyond the village. Getting people interested and involved in caring for the churchyard is a challenge.

Richard Neale, the church warden wants; “more people to be involved in physical work in the church and churchyard, to help raise money and to bring particular skills”.


Step 1 We run a series of fund raising events over the year, including:

  • A Pet Service
  • A Carol Party involving singing a few carols, sharing a drink of mulled wine, some food then singing more carols
  • An Annual Craft Festival
  • A Snowdrop Tea which takes place every other year. In 2015, 100 people came and this raised about £500.
  • A Silent Auction which also takes place every other year
  • A Potato Challenge which takes place every other year. Participants are given a seed potato and bucket (for £5 entry fee) and then have 12 weeks to see what they can grow! They then come back together to have their potatoes judged and there are several awards – most potatoes, largest potato, ugliest potato etc. The judging event also involves refreshments, a raffle and other fund raising initiatives. In 2014, 100 people entered and the Challenge raised between £700 and £800.

StIshmaelsPotatoChallenge StIshmaelsFundraising

Step 2 Partly through fundraising events and in other ways the management group have made lots of contacts over the past few years and now have a group of local volunteers, the majority of whom aren’t churchgoers. At a recent work party ten people came, three of whom are regular churchgoers.

Step 3 The group have also extended links with local interest organisations including:

The Coastlands History Group, which covers the whole peninsula and brings several small communities together (St Ishmael’s, Hasguard, Robeston West, Dale, St Brides and Marloes).

A local gardening club. There are now about 20 volunteers helping in the churchyard. On average 10 will attend a work party which take place on weekdays and weekends so as not to exclude anyone.

PeninsulaPapersStep 4 There is a parish magazine which was started by the vicar – Peninsula Papers – this has been very successful and is now fully funded by advertising and has extended beyond church news to become a community magazine with a wide range of events and topics within it. It is delivered for free to all the houses within four parishes. This helps to further encourage involvement from the whole community and integration between the parishes.


Step 5 The churchyard is mainly managed as long grass with close mown paths through it. Management is by strimming only as the ground is too steep for mowing.

The site looks cared for and well managed.


In 2014 the group raised a total of £3,000 through donations, activities and competitions

Because of the high numbers of volunteers and the system of management (long grass with paths) the PCC does not have to pay at all for mowing. This is a sheltered, warm place where grass often grows year round.

Short grass usually needs mowing weekly for six months of the year and when necessary during the remainder of the year. Other similar sized nearby churchyards are paying £50 per cut, giving a total of about £1,050. At St. Ishmael’s people bring their own tools and so the PCC does not need to buy mowers or strimmers.

The PCC pays for a tree surgeon to make an annual report and carry out necessary tree works. He also does a winter strim for £180


StIUshmaelsPlantSaleBy managing to involve so many people the work is spread and feels manageable. This extends to the organisers as well as the other volunteers at a work party.

There are three or four key people who co-ordinate work and volunteers and only one of them needs to be there on a particular day. This makes the whole task less onerous and people more likely to wish to be involved.

St Ishmael’s is within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and the local Ranger Hayley Barrett has become involved with the churchyard and has brought local school children out on site to learn and help. She has also involved volunteers from the Prince’s Trust.

Although the church is not within the village it is on a path between the village and the sea, and many local people including children pass that way regularly going down to the beach. This helps to engender a feeling of involvement and ownership within the whole community.


Running events bi-annually is a good idea; people do not become fatigued and so are more likely to join in again and again. The Snowdrop Tea and Potato Challenge alternate annually. It is a good idea to try new things although a recent duck race failed because the ducks all turned upside down in the fast flowing stream!


The PCC would like more money as they are starting to have safety issues with some monuments. They would also like to involve more younger people.

A grant might be useful for both of these and it would be really helpful if the diocese supplied up-to-date information on grants. There is a possibility of looking at funding across the four parishes and of further working together.

A botanical survey would help to fine tune the management to benefit wildlife and also give useful information for interpretation.