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2009 Sydney regional MeetUP — Chester Hill CG

2009 Sydney regional MeetUP — Chester Hill CG

WHEN THE TRAIN PASSENGERS, passing by high on the rail embankment above, look down they see a patchwork of rectangular allotments and the familiar shape of cabbage and lettuce, capsicum and tomato. If they look down on Wednesdays, they are likely to see people working the allotments those vegetables spill from.

Sydney Community Gardens Network participants gather at Chester Hill Community Garden for their quarterly meeting.

Perhaps they will notice people cutting back the coral trees (Erythrina) that grow in the narrow, deep cutting that forms the creek that bisects Chester Hill Community Garden on the diagonal. If left to themselves, these deciduous, leguminous trees grow tall and wide and, although resplendent in their large, bright red flowers, they would cast unwanted shade where allotments might one day be built. In the creek, they are kept low and keep company with solid congestion of tall, strap-leafed water reeds.

Passengers in those passing trains – this is the Western Suburbs line – who know their plants might recognise, growing on the other side of the creek, a number of young citrus trees adjacent to a garden shed.

The bridge that spans the creek delivers visitors to the allotments. Taking the shape of practically designed and easy-to-maintain rectangles edged with sturdy timber, here is where the Chester Hill gardeners produce their commonly-eaten vegetables. There’s lettuce, tomato, capsicum, even a patch of taro, and other varieties. One of the allotments, gardened by a mother and daughter team, is particularly prolific with leafy edibles.

Chester Hill is not a large community garden on the scale, say, of Randwick Community Organic garden which, by Sydney standards, is extensive. It has, however, a great deal more space than the smaller, inner-urban gardens such as Newtown Community Garden and Redfern’s Greg Hewish Memorial Community Garden.

Chester Hill Community Garden fatures allotments for individuals and families.

Meeting place

Those from the Sydney Community Gardens Network meeting here this cool, dull, mid-winter Sunday afternoon gather in a circle adjacent to the shelter and its rainwater tank and introduced themselves.

There’s the manager of the community centre whose land the garden occupies; a clutch of Chester Hill gardeners; Emma Daniell from Randwick Community Organic Garden with her young daughter Josie; Lucinda and her team from the northside where they are planning to start a community garden in Epping; a team from the proposed Meadowbank Community Garden; Maery O’Connell, a Randwick community gardener who is active with the Arts in Community Gardens team; Annie Walker, the City of Sydney’s Community Gardens and Volunteers Coordinator; and Fiona Campbell and myself from the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network.

It’s a gathering of community gardeners and a couple of local government people whose roles involve liaison with community gardeners. It is also a gathering of people from one of Sydney’s oldest community gardens – Randwick – and some from community gardens yet-to-be. The presence of the Meadowbank and Epping community garden startups is significant and their gardens, once they get going, will be two of too few on the Sydney northside, the tardiest part of town when it comes to community garden development. The oldest community garden over there would be Willoughby Community Garden. Managed by Willoughby Council, the garden operates similarly to council Bushcare groups, the gardeners being council volunteers.

Gardens of the urban west

There are other community gardens in the metropolitan west in addition to Chester Hill, such as that at Wentworthville, just beyond Parramatta, but they are thinly spread across this vast region that is the demographic heart of Sydney, the location where the bulk of the population live. There are others out in the Liverpool area of the urban south-west and they are likewise scattered.

Chester Hill Community Garden is the oldest in Western Sydney, dating back to the late 1990s when Alicia Bourner, a graduate of the PacificEdge urban Permaculture Design Course, was hired by the Chester Hill Community Centre to design, start building and gather a community to work the garden. The project was well suited to the urban orientation of the course and brought into use the participatory planning and group dynamics skills Alicia had picked up during her training.

The garden took shape over succeeding years. Alicia finished the project long ago and, today, a capable and friendly bunch of local people manage the garden. As they tend those rectangular allotments and meet in the shade of their modest shelter they have gone from being fellow gardeners to gardening friends.

Comments (4)

  • Jacqui
    08/11/2009 at 9:40 am Reply

    I am wanting to know if there is a community garden in Willoughby or Lane Cove in Sydney. I am wanting an individal small plot. Are there any available?
    Kind Regards

  • Andrew
    16/12/2009 at 11:37 pm Reply

    G’day Jacqui
    There are a few gardens in the Willoughby/Lane Cove area. The Willoughby gardens are all communal at the moment, with the possibility of individual plots in the future. There is a Lane Cove garden called Permapatch, situated behind the old sandstone church on the corner of Mowbray Rd and The Pacific Hwy. I think they have a website called permapatch, which probably has more information and contact details.
    You are very welcome to come along to the willoughby garden wich meets twice a month, on the first Sat and the third Sun, between 8am and 11am(during the warmer months). If you would like more info, please contact the council on 9777 1000, or check out the Willoughby Council web site(search ‘Community Garden’).

  • Kate Olsson
    25/05/2010 at 2:56 am Reply

    Hi i am wanting to know if there are any community gardens in the Penrith area?

  • Anne Robinson
    15/06/2010 at 8:01 am Reply

    Are there any community gardens in the Killarney Heights/Forestville area? Do you have to live in Willoughby to go to their garden?

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