As part of a project to spring clean the London Borough of Waltham Forest, CleanupUK has helped a church in Leytonstone turn its once scruffy, litter strewn garden back into a much-needed family-friendly community space.

Sandwiched between bustling Leytonstone High Street and a busy supermarket, is a surprisingly large churchyard, belonging to the Church of St. John the Baptist. The green-fingered former Rev. Raymond Draper had turned this rare green space into a wildlife haven with its own child friendly nature trail.

But until recently, this urban oasis was marred by the large quantities of rubbish blowing in from the nearby streets and the even trickier issue of fly tipping on a huge scale. Large items such as filing cabinets, beds, mattresses, chairs, and other furniture have been left to fester in the undergrowth around the churchyard for years.

Fortunately, the church was able to benefit from a CleanupUK spring cleaning initiative in 2014, which combined a group of our volunteers with an enthusiastic band of churchgoers to blitz the mess.

Carrolle Jamieson, church volunteer and local resident, has this to say about CleanupUK’s involvement,

 “There is a limit to what street cleaners can do. They only have time to clean the streets and empty the bins. CleanupUK helped us organise our cleaning weekend and provided professional equipment, including bags, litter pickers and transport to take away the rubbish.”

The spring clean was part of a borough wide operation in Waltham Forest over the weekend of 22nd/23rd March 2014. Emma Harrington, CleanupUK’s Project Coordinator, arranged for a council lorry to collect larger items of waste from the steps outside the church. It took three or four people to carry some of them. A second clean up in June was arranged just before the inauguration of St John’s new vicar, the Rev. David Bittern.

The cleaned up churchyard has proved popular with local residents and has drawn in people from the wider area as well. Parents and children can now come and enjoy the nature trail safely and it has even become popular with school groups. Elderly people also come in greater numbers to enjoy the garden’s tranquility.

Carrolle said, “It has helped to change our community and bring it together. We feel we can take action not just in our church, but with other activities in the community.”

It has been such a success on so many levels that the group would like to continue to tidy the churchyard on a quarterly basis.

Carrolle concludes, “It has really improved the beauty of the park and opened the church garden to more sections of the community.”