Monday, October 25, 2021
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How community pride and old-fashioned graft is making a difference in Pudsey Cemetery

Volunteers in Pudsey are taking a pride in their community by tackling overgrown graves and trees in historic Pudsey Cemetery. West Leeds Dispatch editor John Baron joined them for their latest ‘action day’ this morning.

Apparently Pudsey Cemetery is at ‘the dead centre’ of the town. That’s one of the things I was told by enthusiastic and friendly volunteers when I joined one of the Friends of Pudsey Cemetery and Chapel group’s tidy ups this morning.

Technically he wasn’t wrong. The cemetery is a quiet oasis only a couple of minutes’ walk from the town centre, but I’m sure that wasn’t quite what he meant.

Historic Pudsey Cemetery. Photo: John Baron

It was teaming with squirrels and other wildlife on a gorgeously sunny October morning, the sun breaking through the trees and casting a dappled shade under the blue skies.

So what brought ten Pudseyites into their cemetery to take part in this action day? For some it’s about giving something back to the community, showing pride and making a difference, for others it’s about discovering the fascinating history of the place, and for others it helps their wellbeing being out and about and keeping active.

I joined them to see what it was like – and I must admit I came away invigorated. It’s a useful workout and two of us managed to strip three graves of weeds, grass and invasive shrubs within 90 minutes.

The graves before the work took place.

There was a certain satisfaction knowing that the people buried there so many years earlier now had a grave that was neat and tidy showed them the respect they deserved.

What struck me more than anything was what a friendly bunch the Friends were, efficiently getting on with their work but chatty all the same. It was good to get out in the fresh air with them and away from the laptop, especially on World Mental Health Day.

I attended and reported on the public meeting to set up the Friends group at St Andrew’s Methodist Church Hall in July 2017 and WLD has followed their development since then with interest. It’s inspiring to see how the group has grown and developed.

It still has aims to take the run-down chapel building into community use – and it’s clear to see the difference the cemetery action days have made.

“It’s a bit like painting the Forth bridge,” one attendee told me. “It’s a big site but we do a good job at getting round it and making a difference. It’s a great way of getting involved with the local community.”

The action days comply with Council COVID-19 guidelines and are ideal for families. There’s litterpicking, plot tidying and weeding, self-seeded tree removal – but nothing too strenuous! Attendees are encouraged to wear clothes suitable for the smashing Pudsey weather.

Fancy getting involved?

You can register your intention to volunteer by e-mailing friends.of.pudseycemetery@gmail.com or check out the group’s Facebook page.

Factfile

After 142 years the cemetery now holds;

  • 100 memorials to casualties of both World Wars.
  • 60 Service Personnel graves (only 48 are CWGC registered).
  • At least three Knights of the Realm.
  • Most of the former Pudsey Mayors.
  • A whole community at rest.
  • A consecrated resting place for the future.

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