Sharing Our Wild Spiritual Spaces (SOWSS)

This wellbeing and sustainability initiative takes place at churches in rural and deep rural areas and is suitable for Everyone’s wellbeing and enjoyment:   it is especially aimed at disadvantaged communities and groups such as those for young people, refugees and those who would otherwise not get access to wild spaces, as well as for Visitors and Tourists.

Sharing Our Wild Spiritual Spaces encourages churches to develop and share their outdoor spaces with other groups, especially the disadvantaged, who might enjoy the tranquillity, beauty and nature. It is also a useful way to tidy churchyards and achieve other outdoor jobs that need doing!

The pilot took place at St Aidan’s Thorneyburn led by Churchwarden Caroline Waitt,  Lizzie Kathiravel led the Willow Weaving workshop and a super group of volunteers from churches across the area. Activities may include clearing a space ready for re-wilding, actual planting, scything, clearing paths, hands-on craft such as weaving or drawing or something for wildlife etc, doing jobs that need doing such as clearing paths etc and, depending on the time of year, a Wildflower or Butterfly count could be completed and submitted to the national surveys.It is tailored to the location, the needs of the graveyard or space, and the group who are visiting.

Lizzie writes:

Graveyards are very special spaces as they are respected and cherished by so many people and hold the thoughts of folk who have left the parish as well as those still here.  They are often visited by families who are searching for their roots.  They are very much people-based spaces!

However they are also unique in that they are held apart from the land around them.  They are not built on, farmed, or disturbed (hopefully). As such they can, if allowed, become wonderful habitat spaces.  Our church has a healthy red squirrel population, but the mature trees and scruffy edges can also be coaxed into creating wild cover. If we speak of God’s creation inside the building, I feel that it should also be celebrated and guarded outside. 

By providing spaces for our wild relations, we also enhance our own lives.  How wonderful to be able to offer a worship space where we are truly joined by pollinators and worms, birds and wildflowers and all the web of life.  The practise of welcoming in the wild is vital now to our planet’s future, and a space that acknowledges and practises this will bring real comfort to visitors and parishioners alike.

I would hope that St Aidan’s can work as a mycelia hub; bringing in opportunities for growth and healing for other parts of our community.  The congregation here can not only help with the rites of passage of human life but also with wellbeing and fellowship.    

Churchwarden Caroline writes:

We hosted a group of BN(O)’s  living in the northeast many of whom have only left in the last few months after the troubles there. They were keen to do voluntary activities, get into the countryside and understand our local history. So, we set up a full day with groups enthusiastically clearing the logs and brash in the churchyard, weeding the many sycamore seedlings, identifying wildflowers, and clearing the steps and flags around the church. They also did some willow weaving with Lizzie making crosses and fishes. After a lunch at the local pub, I led them on a walk to the Bog and along the Tarset showing more wildlife and some local history. This was very different from their lives in Newcastle and the country they had come from where there are only parks and no private gardens, and they had never gardened before. We all had a great day and they left with many hugs and waves having had a real feel of the countryside.

Not only did everyone have a very enjoyable time, but a lot of work that was needed in the churchyard got done and is looking good, and new people from a disadvantaged community were able to access the countryside. We got very positive feedback from the volunteers who helped and from our congregation about all the work done too. 

Sharing Our Wild Spiritual Spaces can be replicated across our rural and deep rural churches not just as one-off experiences, but also ongoing opportunities for people to come along and get involved, and pass on our love for our countryside and the wildlife that lives there for future generations to use, see and enjoy, as well as the wellbeing and enjoyment that we all get when we’re there.

The pilot was a great success and can be replicated.

If you would like find out more, or you would like to run SOWSS at your church , please contact and/or


I wanted to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude for the incredible effort and dedication your team put into making our volunteer event day a resounding success. The enthusiasm and friendliness displayed by your team were truly commendable, and our participants thoroughly enjoyed the day filled with exciting activities.

I wanted to highlight how much our members loved the outing, particularly the handcraft session and guided walk. The handcraft activity allowed our participants to unleash their creativity while the guided walk provided them with a unique opportunity to explore and learn about the surroundings.

Once again, thank you for your unwavering commitment, exceptional friendliness, and the memorable day we shared.
BN(O) leader