Winning big for biodiversity at the 2023 CIRIA BIG Biodiversity Challenge Awards

21 November 2023

Cormac achieved significant recognition at the prestigious 2023 CIRIA BIG Biodiversity Challenge Awards, marking the third year of acclaim following previous successes in 2019 and 2022. 

CIRIA BIG Biodiversity Challenge Awards

At this year's ceremony, Cormac's Environment Service team was awarded not one, but two 'Highly Commended' accolades in the 'Biodiversity Legacy' and 'Community Engagement' categories for their environmental management of Closed Churchyards.  

The judges applauded Cormac's efforts, stating: “Special mention for re-visiting plans that had biodiversity in mind when stakeholders raised concerns, finding a common language that led to a successful pilot, rollout to several locations, while upskilling contractors in this approach.” They also praised Cormac's focus on community involvement, noting: “Special mention for its focus on maintenance and on bringing the community together.” 

The 'Living Churchyard' initiative, a flagship project of Cormac, exemplifies their approach. Originating as a pilot at Ludgvan Churchyard in 2020, this wildlife-friendly management scheme now extends to 15 closed churchyards across Cornwall, fostering rich biodiversity.

John Hawkey, a volunteer ecology advisor collaborating with Cormac, shared his experience: “Working with the staff of Cormac has been a pleasure and hopefully of mutual benefit. St Uny Churchyard now boasts the only site in West Cornwall with hundreds of Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fushsii), the largest collection in the county and a rare orchid only found elsewhere near the Devon border.” 

Another highlight of the ceremony was the recognition of Melissa Ralph, Cormac Environment Service’s Making Space for Nature Manager. Melissa received the 'Biodiversity Champion Award, Established Professional' for her influential work on the Making Space for Nature project, which has been pivotal in creating diverse habitats and transforming greenspaces into cherished wildlife havens. 

Zoe Hilditch, Cormac’s Environmental Sustainability Manager, and a judge at this year’s awards, commented on the high standard of entries and Cormac's achievements: “The quality of this year’s projects entered was extremely high so for Cormac to be continually recognised at a national level is a great achievement. It demonstrates the hard work that our teams are putting in to actively address the ecological emergency by adapting methods of maintenance to work with nature.” 

Cormac's accolades at the 2023 CIRIA BIG Biodiversity Challenge Awards not only celebrate its commitment to environmental excellence but also reinforce its role as a frontrunner in ecological conservation and community engagement. 

We would like to give a special thanks to John Hawkey for his shared learning, to David Brown for his wonderful photography, and to all the Church Wardens who have helped Cormac to make this all possible.


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