Gardening guru retires after 17 years of helping others

An Ely man has retired after 17 years of helping people look after their gardens and gain employment.

Having been the supervisor of the Helping Hands Garden Project (which is run by the Ely & district volunteer centre) since 2003, Steve Twigden decided to call it a day this October.

Steve had seen his workload with the Voluntary Community Action East Cambs group increase steadily over time.

Angela Haylock, of VCAEC, which runs the Helping Hands Garden Project, said: “The gardening scheme not only helps residents with their gardens, but it also helps volunteers gain confidence.

“Over the years he has met many different volunteers, some of whom have been helped into employment by working alongside him.”

The types of gardening jobs for Steve have been varied and range from regular grass cutting to transforming a jungle into a garden.

Angela added: “This year has been difficult, but the scheme has continued throughout lockdown 2 and will carry on throughout the winter.

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“If people are finding it hard to tend to their gardens due to their health and they live in East Cambridgeshire then give us a call.

“Please note that we do ask for a donation towards our costs.”

As the group was not allowed to hold a retirement celebration for Steve due to the Covid-19 restrictions, they spent the last two weeks of October ringing round some of the Helping Hands clients to get comments to add to a retirement card.

Chris & Peter said: “Thank you for always making my garden look great. Have a happy retirement.”

Mrs T added: “We’d like to thank you for all your good service and sharing your excellent gardening knowledge with us.

“You’ll be missed but we hope you have a healthy and happy retirement.”

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The VCAEC works to assist organisations and individuals with their volunteering needs.

They also assist voluntary organisations with their needs which range from funding assistance to information and training.

They run three schemes from their offices which are:

1. The Helping Hands Gardening Scheme – assisting disadvantaged people with their gardens; the work ranges from a quick once a week tidy to a complete garden makeover.

2. The Ely Social Car Scheme - assisting disadvantaged people with journeys, such as hospital appointments, their weekly shop or the hairdressers.

3. The What’s Your Game Project – a four-year funded project aimed at getting children and their families more active in Ely and Littleport.

Visit for more information.