Green-fingered great-gran Dena Murphy thought she was getting a helping hand from Corrie stars Jennie McAlpine and Antony Cotton when they turned up at her allotment in their wellies.
Wise-cracking Dena, 91, set them straight to work, showing them how to properly dig up her leeks.
But in fact the sneaky pair were actually hiding a Pride of Britain award amongst the leeks in her wheelbarrow.
The pensioner burst into tears as they revealed the award, saying: “I am so thrilled. Thrilled barely covers it, actually. I can’t believe it. I never expected this.”
Jennie told Dena, as the supergran tearfully clasped her award to her chest: “I just wish I could hug you! Sorry we tricked you. For so many years you’ve done so many amazing things for this community.”
Jokingly, Dena told the pair during their socially-distanced surprise: “You deserve a clout in the ear!”
The moment is one of the highlights of the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards 2020, in partnership with TSB, which will be screened on Sunday at 9pm on ITV.
Dena, from Moston in Manchester, has won the TSB Community Hero Award for her work helping young offenders get their lives back on track at her beautiful community allotment.
She’s helped rehabilitate more than 300 ex-offenders by teaching them new gardening skills as they complete their community service orders on her colourful urban patch with a difference.
Dena, who has been running the community scheme in Moston for 19 years, says: “When I first started this garden, I really needed some help.
“It was quite difficult persuading people to help me and that is how we ended up starting the scheme, with what someone once referred to as ‘naughty boys’. But I do not like that term. Everyone and anyone can be helped.
“This can completely transform their lives. It makes them see things totally differently and gives them a purpose. And some of them do still keep in touch with me.
“One time, I got a message from one of the lads we helped, saying: “Dena, thank you for my life.’ By coming here, they realise that suddenly they can turn their lives around.”
Dena says she has seen some of the young people who have come through her allotment reoffend – but they have never been disrespectful to her.
“They know that if they ever reoffend, they will never be welcome back here,” she says. “But I think that works as an incentive.”
Dena has forged such strong relationships with some of the former criminals she has helped, some of them still come over every Saturday to help her out with the lunch club – which has been put on hold due to the pandemic.
One ex-offender sends her a card every Christmas with a straight line drawn inside to symbolise the way she’s straightened him out.
The man, called Stephen, says she’s changed his life. “If Dena was my grandma” he says, “then my life would never have gone wrong in the first place.”
As well as helping young offenders, Dena is the driving force behind charity Nephra Good Neighbours, which helps to reduce isolation and loneliness in older people – something she says is all the more important as we face the impact of Covid-19.
The project, which Dena chairs, delivered more than 100 ‘meals on wheels’ every week throughout the pandemic.