In the early 1800’s (possibly earlier) land – allotments – had been set aside for use by the working classes in the UK and Europe. Allotments provided communities with space to escape from their crowded cities and supplemented their food supplies.
Community gardens have been in and out of favour for many years since. Economic hardship brought on by the Great Depression and the Second World War saw a resurgence in popularity of these open spaces. And the 1970s saw a growing concern over the environment and the first Australian community garden is believed to have been established in 1977 in Nunawading, Victoria.
Since then, community gardens have flourished all over the nation, no more than in our own municipality of Boroondara.
Our Council has been very supportive of community food growing and sharing initiatives with the leasing of Council land to organisations that run community gardens. A new community garden in Kew – the Willsmere Station Community Garden – was opened in late 2019.
This garden’s name reflects links to the historic train station that was located here. Willsmere Station formed part of the Outer Circle Rail Line that ran for just two years from 1891 to 1893.
A community group and not the Council manages the Willsmere Station Community Garden. The purpose of the association is to improve food security, promote healthy eating, increase community connection (and help reduce social isolation), reduce our environmental impact, connect with nature, and more. There are 50 allotments in this garden and the response to the creation of this garden was so great that a ballot was held to allocate plots to community members and even today there is a long waiting list.
The Willsmere Station Community Garden members have successfully come together to share tips, seek advice, share produce, and hold working bees.
A community garden brings people together, increases their physical activity, and provides those, who do not have the space, to have a garden. It also allows some to learn new skills.
But Willsmere is not the only community garden within our Municipality. More information about community gardens as well as details on local groups that grow and share food and other useful resources on urban agriculture, beehives, and sustainable gardens can be found on the Boroondara Council website.
With Spring here, it is always a delight to walk past the Willsmere Station Community Garden in bloom. The colours of the fruit, the greenery, and the flowers mixed in are a lovely sight to behold.
We can learn a lot from nature and what better way to learn than through practice. Gardening can capture our imaginations, stir curiosity, and change our relationship to food and each other all for the better.
By Kate Baines