IN ITS stunning location overlooking the city, Bradford’s Underfcliffe Cemetery attracts visitors from across the globe.

Whether people visiting the graves of relatives, tourists coming to walk among the ornate memorials or people looking for links in their family tree, the 26-acre site is a jewel in the city’s crown.

Dating from the mid-19th century, the cemetery is also used a film location, having been the backdrop for scenes from the 1960s classic Billy Liar and the more recent drama series Peaky Blinders, among others.

A fascinating place to explore, the cemetery - which is owned by Bradford Council and operated and maintained by Undercliffe Cemetery Charity - is also a haven for wildlife and a welcome green space in Bradford’s industrial landscape.

But to keep the site maintained, safe and accessible demands a great deal of hard work. Behind the scenes a team of people, the majority of them volunteers, dedicate themselves to helping care for this historic swathe of the city’s past.

At present there are 16 volunteers, helping with a range of activities from ground maintenance to general repairs and historical and genealogical research.

Andy Tyne is one of them. A volunteer for seven years, he became involved after chatting to volunteers while out walking his dog. “I got talking to Brian and Val, who encouraged me to join them. I did, and have enjoyed every minute,” he says.

Some volunteers are able to do more physically demanding work than others, but everyone plays a part.

“We try wherever possible to tackle certain jobs in certain areas as a team rather than individual,” says Andy. “It’s great to see a whole area tackled in one go.”

He adds: “Certain aspects of the work we do is very specialised such as Japanese knotweed chemical spraying and chainsaw operation. These roles need specific training courses but most of the jobs don't.”

Their work, he says, is very weather dependent. “Spring and summer is pretty much strimming all the time. We can do more jobs in autumn and winter like removing saplings and burning off removed timbers, with fire brigade approval.

We're moving towards giving new volunteers specific areas/tasks in which to specialise, which seems to be working.”

He adds: “We uncover many fascinating pieces of Bradford's past and recent history in items we find. One thing I was really proud to be involved in finding was a memorial to Eric Anderson from Fagley, who was awarded the Victoria Cross in the Second World War. A few of us were trying to find the overgrown family grave of Arnold Pitts, aged just 18 and killed in the First World War, and when we found it we discovered an inscription to Eric on the same plot - they were directly related to each other.

"We've tidied that area up now, seeded it and it will soon be ready for visitors to pay their respects.”

He goes on to say: “Volunteers are absolutely vital in getting the cemetery looking its best over such a huge site. Bradford Council provides some funding but nothing that will facilitate paid employees, as was the case from the cemetery starting in 1854.”

Former teacher Chris Haxby has been a volunteer for around nine years. “I wanted to volunteer for something outside in the fresh air, that interested me and would keep me fit,” he says. “I watched a TV programme about Undercliffe and its volunteers and got in touch.”

Over the years his tasks have included cutting grass, strimming and pruning shrubs and trees. “I have been helping with renovation work on the main promenade, concreting where required. I love it.”

He adds: “To say it is in the inner city, the cemetery is the most wonderful space and is full of wildlife - I love seeing all the bird life, especially in spring. You are out in the open, getting some exercise, meeting other volunteers and visitors - it really is enjoyable."

Some volunteers go along every week, while others lend a hand once or twice a month. Others help families who come to the cemetery wishing to search for their ancestors.

Cemetery coordinator and registrar Andrew Barker says volunteers are “crucial to the running of the cemetery charity”, which is overseen by a management committee whose members include two representatives from Bradford Council.

“We could not do the jobs we do without them,” he says. “Recently, volunteers helped to refurbish a large communal burial area where 1678 bodies were reinterred due to the road being built in front of Bradford Cathedral. We were given a grant by Bradford Cathedral to refurbish it. We smoothed out the area and laid a hardcore membrane before putting down chippings which were donated to us. There is going to be a service there on August 25."

He adds: "There is a variety of jobs throughout the year, and we are always looking for volunteers to come and help out. Some of our volunteers are retired and feel they are giving something back to the city by helping to maintain this wonderful green space as well as restoring it.”

*Anyone who would like to help can contact;; 01274 642276

*On Saturday June 1 at 11am a tour of Undercliffe Cemetery takes place, entitled Cudworth's Bradford, looking at the city in the time of local historian William Cudworth, who died in 1906. For more details contact the cemetery.