What a ‘re-leaf’! Green Party volunteers clean up South Shields OAP’s garden

Derek Dowell shows his delight as his garden is cleared of leaves.
Derek Dowell shows his delight as his garden is cleared of leaves.

Everything is rosy in the garden again for a beleaguered pensioner given a new ‘leaf’ of life by some green-fingered friends.

Derek Dowell has had grave concerns for years after being forced to fill up thousands of bags with tons of fallen leaves blown into his garden from Harton Cemetery, which his home backs onto.

South Tyneside Green Party leader David Herbert and supporter Peter Watt lend a hand.

South Tyneside Green Party leader David Herbert and supporter Peter Watt lend a hand.

The 79-year-old issued a plea for help through the Gazette as he struggled with the scale of the task – and saw his call answered by a pair of caring Green Party members.

Mr Dowell, 79, from Highfield Drive, South Shields, was struggling to tackle the mammoth clear-up operation alone – as he battles the lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

His call for South Tyneside Council to offer a helping hand fell on deaf ears – leading South Tyneside Green Party parliamentary candidate David Herbert and supporter Peter Watt to get stuck in.

Now, thanks to their efforts, he has been given the all-clear to enjoy his horticultural haven.

“I won’t be able to thank them enough.”

Derek Dowell

As the duo worked, a team of council workers was on the other side of the fence cleaning up the cemetery. Mr Dowell said; “I am over the moon with what they have done.

“It has brought tears to my eyes the amount of support I have had. I have had about 20 letters from people offering to help and have been overwhelmed by it all.”

Mr Watt spent the morning bagging leaves and said he was delighted to be able to help out.

He said: “It’s good to get in the Christmas spirit, but I would do this in any time of the year. He is an elderly man with health problems and he needed someone to step in.”

Green Party volunteers lend a helping hand to clear up the mountain of leaves in Derek Dowell's garden.

Green Party volunteers lend a helping hand to clear up the mountain of leaves in Derek Dowell's garden.

Mr Herbert, who stood for the party in the Jarrow ward at the General Election in May, added; “We saw the story in the Gazette and we wanted to help out. The council will need to look at ways they can help older people who may have problems like this.

“It has been time well spent helping Derek.”

South Tyneside Council says it has no legal duty to collect leaves that fall on private property, but said staff would contact Mr Dowell to discuss the problem.

A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “A member of our Greenspace Team has already spoken to Mr Dowell.

“The council spends a lot of time and effort cleaning up the leaves from public places, including roads and footpaths, across the borough.

“However, as the council has no legal duty to collect leaves that fall on to private property, we are not in a position to clear the leaves from Mr Dowell’s garden.

“However, we will contact him in the next few days to discuss the problem and any other support that we may be able to offer.”