Sunday, September 26, 2021
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Meet the Bramley garden makeover volunteers making a difference to people’s lives

Words & photos: John Baron

Clearing weeds and cutting back grass might not be everyone’s idea of a relaxing Sunday morning – but for a group of brilliant volunteers in Bramley it’s a brilliant way to give something back to the community and meet new people at the same time.

I decided to join the volunteers from Bramley Care Bears for some weeding, litter picking and clearing up as part of their 21st ‘garden makeover’ this year.

The group regularly tackle overgrown gardens whose owners are unable to look after them properly, but this ‘makeover’ was different. It was held at Manor Park Surgery in Bramley to tackle overgrown beds and edges around the car park which were full of nettles and long grass.

Philip and Jess pulling weeds at Manor Park Surgery.

Organiser Philip McConnell said it was an opportunity to show our appreciation for the wonderful work provided by the NHS during the pandemic, and it was great to show our support in a small but meaningful way.

I was joined by Philip and fellow volunteers Lizzie, Paula and Jess. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and it felt much more like a social event than work.

People go at their own pace – and you feel a genuine sense of achievement and pride when you compete a session. You feel like you’re making a difference to improve the community.

The grounds at Manor Park Surgery were overgrown…

Jess is a teacher but loves helping the Care Bears when she can. She said:

“The other week we did a garden of an older lady which was like a jungle, the undergrowth was so high. It even had frogs in it!

“As a teacher I have seen how important it is to contribute to the community and how many people are vulnerable and need more than they are currently getting.

“The pandemic has given everyone time to think and for introspection. I found the Bramley Wombles group through councillor Kevin Ritchie and got involved in local litter picks then heard about the Care Bears.

“I love a bit of gardening. It helps your wellbeing.”

‘Shear’ determination: Lizzie at work.

Volunteer Lizzie usually helps out at the food bank, which is also run by the Care Bears, but was today making one in on the garden makeover. She said:

“My partner and I were on furlough and wanted to do more in the community and get out and see people. We’re back at work now but I don’t work Sundays and I enjoyed helping out at the food bank so much I wanted to come along and help.

“I’d advise people to come and give it a go. You might end up making new friends.”

Paula loves working with fellow volunteers.

Paula told me she loved working with other volunteers and said taking part in activities like a garden makeover meant she was giving something back to the community and helping those less fortunate. She added:

“I just like being outside, being active and spending time with people. I still have my mum aged 95 and these guys come and chat to her when they can, so it’s good to give something back.”

Volunteers hard at work clearing the site.
One of the weed-covered areas in the car park after it’s been cleared by volunteers

Philip said that the Care Bears started the garden makeover project in the hope Bramley people with spare time and energy to work as a group to help local people who need help with their gardens.

“People volunteer because they make new friends, to gets them out and about and keeps them active – and it’s making a real difference to other people’s lives. I can’t recommend it enough- and we’re always looking for volunteers to join us, particularly for garden makeovers,” he said

People power: Another cleared bed at Manor Park Surgery.

While more volunteers are welcome, he also praised the community for their wider support by generously donating gardening equipment to the scheme.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself today and it was a pleasure being with a great group of people showing true community spirit – so much so I completely lost track of time once I got started. I’ll certainly go back again for more sessions. It’d be great if you could join in too.

Anyone interested in getting involved should call Philip on 07398 012399. All equipment is provided.

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