On a grey Wednesday in November a group of staff from the Olympic Delivery Authority's (ODA's) Planning Decisions Team (PDT) and Transport team met up to volunteer for the day as part of the ODA's staff volunteering scheme. The location was East Ham Nature Reserve in Newham, a partly overgrown church yard around St. Mary Magdalene Church, parts of which date back to the 13th century. It is thought to be one of the oldest parish churches in London still in use. Newham Conservation Volunteers regularly host groups of volunteers who help with the clearance of undergrowth and maintenance work so a good area of the cemetery is clear and well kept, but a great deal of it continues to be overgrown. It is open to the public and well worth a visit; there are several walking trails through the site offering a good chance to enjoy local flora and fauna. Following a briefing on how to safely use the tools provided, our supervisor for the day assigned us our tasks, to clear away a large area of ivy, sycamore and grass from the graves and headstones. We got stuck into our clearance mission and by lunch time the tireless efforts of the team began to show real evidence progress. After lunch, the battle recommenced, with more cutting down and clearing of ground, revealing for the first time in 20 or more years the headstones and graves that had earlier become visible, many dating from 1912 and as far back as 1862.By the end of the day our area of ground stood transformed.It was good to spend time working with colleagues that we do not normally come across in our daily work. This gave us an opportunity to find out more about other parts of our organisation and their work and to discover a bit of the history of one of the communities that will be hosting the London 2012 Games. Have you done any volunteering in your local area? The London 2012 ‘Changing Places’ programme encourages volunteers to get out and
transform their local area – improving the negative parts and celebrating the good.
Volunteering at the East Ham Nature Reserve