'They will never know how much this means to us': Nurse has dream garden after colleagues raised money to fix unfinished works by tradesmen
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Just last month, mum-of-four Lorna Hardman told the Post of her devastation, after she was left almost £1,500 out of pocket by traders who 'ripped her garden up' and 'ruined' a memorial to her late son Benjamin.
She had planned to treat herself and her family to new grass and fencing in the back garden of her Cowling Lane home after a difficult year working on the front line as an A&E nurse in the pandemic.
And after her ordeal, in which she says she was conned with an unfinished garden and a smashed up memorial for her son Benjamin who passed away, colleagues rallied round to fundraise the money to complete the works.
A month on, Lorna can now finally enjoy sitting in the garden with her children and husband Barry, who has recently re-created the memorial for Benjamin with an engrained plaque and archway.
Lorna said: "We just have the finishing touches to add now and our garden will be finished. We have fixed the fence that the workmen broke and have been able to make a new memorial garden for my son, which is amazing.
"With the money raised by my colleagues, it has meant we have been able to do something more special with Ben's memorial. We will always remember that it is down to them that we have been able to create something so special.
"The support from them all has been really overwhelming, I have been so emotional about it. I know it's only grass, but when my children were finally able to go outside and use our garden it was amazing.
"It is thanks to everyone at work that we have been able to do this, otherwise our garden would still be a mess today because we could not have afforded to fix it ourselves. It is starting to feel like our garden again - they will never know how much this has meant to us."
Colleagues at Blackburn Hospital raised £1,900 to help Lorna and her family restore their garden and create a space to remember her late son.
The unsafe hardcore that had been laid down by the tradesmen who failed to finish the job had to be ripped up and replaced after it was found with sharp shards of glass and tarmac in it.
And fence panels that were left cracked were replaced with the funds raised.
And March 24 marked the nine-year anniversary of her son's death, who had sadly passed away from cancer.
Lorna added: "It was difficult this year because we were not able to do our family tradition. Each year, we put little presents at Ben's memorial and plant small flowers to remember him and wish him a happy birthday.
"Because the garden was such a mess we couldn't do that this year. My friends have bought me little trinkets to go in his memorial, and with the new plaque and archway, it is starting to look nice again.
"I'd just like to say that my team have not only been a financial support, but an emotional support to me. On some days I was so upset, but they have all been there for me. They are like a second family to me and we all stick together."
In a video and text messages seen exclusively by the Post, Lorna had originally been quoted a cost of £850 to have her back garden grass replaced with artificial grass, and an additional £840 after she was then convinced that her fence panels needed replacing by the tradesmen.
But once the work began and she was asked to send over the cash for the materials to finish the job, Lorna claimed they never returned.
She was recently contacted by Action Fraud who informed her that it was 'not possible to identify a line of enquiry' for law enforcement to pursue.
Lorna added: "These people don't have a fixed address and probably do this to so many other people. There is nothing in place to stop them doing this again to other people. Unless there is some law enforcement to track them down, this will just happen to more people in the future.
"If they broke into my house and stole money things would be treated differently. I encourage people to be extremely careful when finding tradesmen."
Trading standards' advice is to always avoid cold callers, use locally known traders and get paperwork including full contact details so that investigations can be carried out if necessary.
Lancashire County Council's 'Safe Trader Scheme' helps people in the county find trusted traders in the area who are registered to the scheme.
Julie added: "We would still always encourage people to ask friends and family first for a recommendation and to google search locally known tradespeople. With the internet, there is a whole world opening up of new traders, so we always recommend using known and trusted tradesmen for jobs because you can never be too careful.
"We also suggest people get multiple quotes for the works and check online reviews before using any tradesmen. It is important that people get their quote in writing along with official paperwork of the quotes being carried out with their trading name. That's important so that people know who they are dealing with.
"Everyone on our Safe Trader scheme has been visited by a member of Trading Standards so we know who they are. We mediate between the customer and the trader, so it is definitely a way to increase the chances of finding a trusted trader.
"I would always still encourage homeowners to try local tradespeople first before going to external trader websites. We have certainly seen an increase in people using these external comparison sites, and they should still be used with caution.
"It is important that people don't feel pressurised into making quick decisions. Consumers first port of call for help and assistance is the Citizen's Advice consumer helpline."