Planting the seeds of change

Of all the urban renewal projects a community garden is one of the loveliest. It’s utterly inspiring to watch a dead piece of wasteland turn into a sea of luxurious foliage, or a brown weedy block transformed into a leafy oasis. Across the Western world urban gardeners have been at the forefront of projects to renew formerly down-at-heel neighbourhoods and as city dwellers become more compacted the importance of a green space increases. Community gardens become mini Gardens of Eden and in doing so significantly enhance the liveability of Australian cities.

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In the West End we are blessed with two pioneer urban gardeners, Don Barker and Annette Lynch, who created and are continuing to maintain the Beresford Garden adjacent to Wickham Station.

It all began simply enough. In the mid-1990s Don and Annette owned adjoining 1880s terraces which still stand and are Beresford Street’s only remaining original houses. From his front window Don was increasingly frustrated by the unpleasant view. The opposite side of the street, next to the train station, had become a major dumping site and one morning this ugly pile of refuse was joined by a discarded washing machine. That was enough; Don decided to take action.

He and Annette set about turning a local tip into the Beresford Garden. They found an ally in the Hamilton Station Manager who provided funds for plants and organised to have the rubbish removed. Don says “I watered, Annette weeded” and together they set about reclaiming the land, building up the soil, fertilising and then planting trees, scrubs and flowers. Soon plumbago, may bush, rosemary and wisteria were blooming opposite their terraces in a place they now call ‘garden no. 1’

A triangular garden with lilies, geraniums and daisies followed; then the now central garden was created, ‘garden no. 2’, next to the Wickham Station ramp. In this garden are sections of tessellated tiles from the home of the Manager of the (former) Honeysuckle Station. Flowers and herbs border these tiles while deeper into the garden daisies are joined by the flowering stems of the watsonia and lavender splashes the garden with purple. On the perimeter fence story boards tell railway tales from the station’s history. These were created by Don, a social historian and retired engineer, who also did the garden’s main signage.

On my wander through the Beresford Street gardens I met the Wickham Station Manager who is effusive in his praise of Don and Annette, insisting (justifiably) that I credit them as the West End’s first urban renewers. Annette’s friend Barbara was so inspired by their horticultural activism that she put pen to paper writing a poem ‘The Gardeners’ which celebrates their success. It ends with:

‘So if you are passing by on the train,

Admire this garden that Wickham has gained,

Called Beresford Garden, what a lovely scene,

And it’s helping to make our city green.’

Amen to that.

Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me: kimberly@netspace.net.au; 0413 250 155.

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