By Penny Thompson, Community Organiser
“I met Penny when she was on East Herringthorpe, asking about how people viewed the estate and what was happening in the community. One of the things we talked about was my work in the local cemetery”Nora Platt
Whilst I was door knocking, I met a local resident called Nora Platt who had been volunteering at Creswick Road cemetery, cleaning graves and researching the war and pit graves. Nora discussed that the cemetery was looking over run and a lot of the graves were covered and that some of the graves were based in the boundary area which couldn’t be reached anymore. We then began to discuss some issues, and I encouraged her to reflect on what the issues were and explore any ideas or solutions to these issues.
“Three years ago in November 2016 I decided to take some of the 100 poppies I had knitted in Remembrance of the Battle of the Somme, to the cemetery to put them on soldiers graves. I found 13 war graves which were neglected and over grown. The following Spring after getting permission from Father Andrew I began clearing the graves and the cemetery I spent months clearing accumulated rubbish, some of the boundary fence was invisible and cutting back trees. A few other people came in at this time to clear round their graves and they cut back some trees and grass. Later I found other soldiers on family graves and I maintain those too.
In nearly three years I have cleared approximately 200 graves or what remains of some graves. Most of the graves were totally covered in grass sods, ivy, nettles and brambles. It is a constant battle to keep the trees and weeds from taking over again. On average I put in between 300 and 350 voluntary hours per year, depending on the weather.”Nora Platt
Nora began discussing that there may be a potential opportunity in creating a group that would like to clean the cemetery on a regular basis. We arranged a meeting with Father Lee and Tim Roberts from Holy Trinity Church to discuss the idea and ensure we all worked in partnership taking on advice from the church in order to adhere to all current regulations. We promoted the idea via media such as Facebook in order to attract interest. A local volunteer and I then began to connect with people with shared interests, so we met with Cllr Ian Jones to discuss the potential of MVCV becoming involved.
The volunteers agreed a date and time and began promoting the 2 days of action to bring people together and use local resources. The volunteers on the day reviewed what equipment we had i.e petrol strimmer’s, loppers etc and and work out a structured approach. At this point we had over 14 volunteers attend made up of residents and MVCV, we also had Rugby Player Paddy Shaw from The Titans.
“I have carried on my own for a while now, just doing what I could, it is my ‘gym’ and my peace and quiet and it is very tempting not to change things. The only reason I thought it needed more people was because they will come a day when I cannot do it anymore and I don’t want it to go back to how it was. There is also the difficulty with getting the grass cut, the church only pays for three cuts a year and it is not enough. When we had the ‘two day clean up’ it made such a difference, it made me believe that the cemeteries overgrown state could be a thing of the past. It is hard work but it is so rewarding and the group that came along worked so hard and gave me hope for the future.”Nora Platt
Over the 2 days the group cleared over 100 graves and two thirds of the area. They marked out clear paths for people to walk, removed moss carpets from the walls giving grave visitors somewhere to sit. It also gave the volunteers an opportunity to discuss further action. The group had decided to clear the graves on the first Tuesday of every month. Going forward the group have discussed other ideas they would like to put in place. They would like to become a constituted group in the future and would like to apply for funding to put together a notice board, they would also like to link in with local a business in Sheffield who would create an augmented reality video using QR codes telling the stories of the war hero and pit disaster graves.
“We have set the first Tuesday in the month for having a clean up day. We are going to look at funding for equipment. We are looking at encouraging more local people to be involved and forming a Friends of Group. Form a long term plan for the continued care of the cemetery.”Nora Platt