Gorton man’s initiative transforms cemeteries around Manchester

Whilst attending his parents grave thirty years ago, Allan Grafton decided that his local cemetery in Gorton was in a terrible shape and the old church was becoming a danger to children and animals.

Here’s what he did about it.

Allan remarks: “There was no point moaning about it. I thought, let’s try and form a small committee and see what we can do.”

And so he did, forming Friends of Gorton Cemetery Gorton All Together, who got to work transforming the cemetery and removing the disused church.

Gorton Cemetery in 2005 with the church. Photo © Roger May (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Local pubs and clubs in the area helped to fundraise the money needed for work, which was added to thanks to a grant from the council.

Green thumbed residents volunteered their time and put the hard work in – bringing brushes and shovels, getting stuck in on the project.

After completion, the cemetery was awarded the Green Flag in 2012, the international quality mark for parks and green spaces, managed by Keep Britain Tidy.

Alan added: “We turned it into a lovely garden where people can sit and reflect. The same people that objected to it actually said that I did a fantastic job in the end.”

Impressed by the efforts, the council asked Allan to speak at meeting Blackley Cemetery to encourage other areas to follow suit.

Gorton Cemetery in 2013 after being revamped. Photo © Tricia Neal (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Allan said: “I never thought that me, a lad from Gorton, would be at the front talking to everyone like that. It really came home to me.”

Thanks to his encouragement and the dedication of hundreds of other local people, four cemeteries in Manchester have now received the Green Flag Award.

Green Flag Award Scheme Manager Paul Todd said:“I would like to congratulate everyone involved in making all these sites in Manchester worthy of a Green Flag Award.”

“To meet the requirements demanded by the scheme is testament to the hard work of the staff and volunteers who do so much to ensure the high standards of horticulture, safety and environmental management and is a place that supports people to live healthy lives.”

The cemetery is now green and peaceful. Photo © Peter McDermott (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Now aged 78, Allan and his committee continue to look after their space and keep in touch.

He was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2006 in recognition of many volunteering efforts and was appointed as deputy to the New High Sheriff of Greater Manchester in 2015.

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