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A couple of weeks ago we were cycling around the area. Waiting for a break in the traffic at the corner of Beach & Wardell Roads Dulwich Hill, I looked across & saw people working in what appeared to be a community garden in Gilbert Barry Reserve. A quick agreement between us & off we went to say hello. The people there gave us a lovely welcome & confirmed that this was a community garden. We chatted & were shown around their garden, which to my eyes was a lovely thing.
The Gilbert Barry Reserve was a poorly used & uninviting space until the Inner West Council gave it an overhaul finishing work around July 2016. The concept plan shows they were to remove 6 trees, plant 5 new trees & add three native garden beds.
The logs from trees removed are now lying around the far garden bed providing habitat for ground creatures. I like that Council is doing this as a norm these days, instead of feeding every tree through the wood-chipper.
Rotting logs are a part of the natural ecosystem. Dead wood not only continues to hold carbon, it also continues to be useful to the environment. The process of decay adds nutrients into the soil helping to grow fungi & moss amongst other plants. Small insects & slugs & worms love this environment. Most of us as children have picked up a log & watched the tiny creatures run from the light. I like to think of them as ‘hotels for insects & other creatures.’ Sandstone blocks have been scattered around the garden beds & these too offer a cool moist habitat for little creatures.
A picnic table setting & two other park benches have been installed. The benches are attractive & do not have a barrier in the middle of the bench to stop people lying down, which was great to see. I do not like defensive architecture & unfortunately, it is creeping into our locality.
A water fountain was in the plans, but I do not remember seeing one. I think it will be the first water fountain in the old Marrickville LGA. I think it would be wonderful for all parks to have a fountain to provide water for birds, as well as beauty for people. You can’t have great biodiversity without access to drinking water.
Apparently, a newly planted tree in the centre of the reserve died & is yet to be replaced.
Along the back fence of the reserve a community garden has been formed. A decent sized stretch of land has been set aside for this & lined by sandstone. ‘Gilbert’s Garden’ was formed around 9-months ago by a group of local residents. They have a range of vegetables & herbs growing. Apparently, they had a good harvest last season.
The group meets every second Sunday for a couple of hours. Not everyone comes to every meeting, but there seems to be a core group. They are looking for new members because the more people are, the less work for everyone. Plus, it is fun to meet new people & form new friendships.
We met three lovely members who were very welcoming to both of us. We both knew that invitations to join the community garden were real, not just words thrown out there.
It was pleasant to be there in the late afternoon sun chatting about the benefits of growing food. Other people were in the reserve sitting there reading, while others were watching the activity happening at the garden. From being a drab, empty green space, Gilbert Barry Reserve is now much improved, has beauty & usefulness & most importantly, offers inclusiveness & purpose for the community.
The more these community gardens are allowed to be formed in public spaces the better in my opinion. Despite Sydney getting larger & more populated, loneliness in the community is on the rise. Gardens like this bring people together & break down barriers. They not only help people learn how to grow food, they foster happiness & connection. Getting out in nature & fresh air is good for our health too.
The community garden has a Facebook group called, ‘Gilbert’s Garden.’ If you are interested in joining or would just like to help occasionally, you can contact them here – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1491955174436769/