The Friends of Elmhurst Gardens are appealing for young volunteers to help keep the Green Flag award-winning park tidy. Kaede Harding – who completed her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award earlier this year – explains why she was proud to help

In recent months, I have spent an hour of my Saturday mornings clearing up as much rubbish as I could from Elmhurst Gardens. The reason I did this was part of my three-month volunteer section for my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award.

As I approached the time for volunteer work, I thought about how I wanted to do something meaningful that wouldn’t be a half-hearted job just to get an award.

Elmhurst Gardens in South Woodford is my local park. I’m a resident of Wynndale Road and, over the years, myself and my family have frequently used the park for picnics, to play tennis, to hang out on sunny afternoons and to attend some of the fun events run by the volunteer group, the Friends of Elmhurst Gardens. Not once in that time has it ever occurred to me how the park remained so clean and well kept – which it really is. I decided my volunteering time would be well spent there, contributing towards this.

Kaede Harding at work in Elmhurst Gardens

Having finished my volunteer work, I can say the experience has truly been eye-opening. Each Saturday, I saw many local faces, who became more and more familiar to me, from dog walkers to runners. I felt like I was in touch with the community.

I began the exercise simply clearing any litter I could during that one hour a week, but as time went on, I found myself more upset as I came across litter – it suddenly bothered me that little bit more.

Elmhurst Gardens is a well-maintained park with regular park cleaners, but we shouldn’t just rely on them; we should all be playing our part to keep it this way. Some of the items I cleared away during just one hour on a Saturday morning included sweet wrappers, bottles, cigarette butts, canisters of laughing gas and even dirty nappies left on the grass. Just after New Year’s Eve, I found a burnt-out Chinese lantern complete with non-disintegrating wire still attached, lying on the pathway where it had finally fallen. I’m ashamed to say, perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed these things before doing this exercise – but I’m more alert to the issues now.

I realise how important Elmhurst Gardens is to this area and can now appreciate how littering is not only letting down the environment but our community as well. We all have a responsibility towards creating a safe place for ourselves, our children and our dogs.

I haven’t written this article because it was part of my award, but because it means something to me, and if it helps people to think more about how they discard rubbish and look out for their local community, then it’s certainly worth it.

My name is Kaede Harding and I’m proud to be a part of this community.

Elmhurst Gardens is located off Gordon Road, South Woodford. For more information on volunteering, visit swvg.co/elmhurst