A PROJECT aimed at helping a community make use of a village church to give people a place to pause and slow down has been given almost £80,000 to continue its work.

St Michael’s and All Angels church, in Witton Gilbert, near Durham, has been running The Breathing Space project since 2011, when it was founded as a way of encouraging use of the church’s peaceful atmosphere and adjoining dene to encourage people to pause, reflect and slow down.

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Chair of trustees Noel Dixon said: “We have developed the concept by providing a range of activities enabling people to relax and socialise.

The Northern Echo:

Noel Dixon, Gillie Boggon and Brenda Gilmore in the dene next to St Michael's

“Activities include mindfulness, men’s shed, Get Active, folk singing, creative writing and organised walks. Our church is open every day with refreshments provided.

“Breathing Space has become the principal form of mission for our parish. Whilst our activities are open to all people of faith and those people with none, our Christian values underpin everything we do.”

The Big Lottery grant of almost £80,000 will enable it to run for another three years.

Brenda Gilmore, trustee and vice-chair of the project, said: “We are overwhelmed and thankful to be awarded this grant.

“To be recognised as a worthy recipient of this award has proved the value of the work we do.”

She added: “We hope to continue working long into the future, creating a unique set of opportunities for groups and individuals who are seeking a ‘breathing space’ in their lives and ultimately improve their mental and physical wellbeing.”

The grant now gives Project Co-ordinator Gillie Boggon extended hours and more time to liaise, network and administer her duties, which has been pivotal in the success of the project since she was appointed in 2013.

The Northern Echo:

Gary Packard, a volunteer, with Gillie Boggon

She said: “Whilst I have continually been blessed by being part of Breathing Space​, the funding will enable me to plan ahead and to make further developments within the brief and ultimately benefit the participants with new activities and more effective outcomes.”

Among the activities to take place at the church are a men's shed project, gentle seated exercise for people going through rehabilitation, mindfulness walks and courses to help people learn to live in the moment, creating writing, folk singing and a children's forest school.