Belfast Telegraph

Interface gardeners cultivate growing bond across the divide

By Linda Stewart

Pipe-bombs were being hurled over this north Belfast peace wall as recently as last year.

But now people from both sides of the divide have taken up their trowels and are cultivating peas and tomatoes in the shadow of the wall.

A piece of “no man’s land” at the Waterworks in north Belfast has been transformed into a garden of plenty — the first community garden to be created within one of Belfast’s city parks.

The garden is being officially launched by Lord Mayor Pat Convery this morning.

Among the 20 gardeners who take turns tying up the peas and watering the tomatoes in the new garden are people from both the loyalist Westland estate and the Catholic estates on the other side of the interface, along with two refugees involved in a Bryson House project, one from Eritrea and the other from the former Soviet Union.

The green-fingered team includes everyone from complete novices to experienced gardeners and ranges in age from 25 to 80.

Siobhan Craig, co-ordinator of local gardening charity Grow, said the site on the edge of the Waterworks park was a “bit of a no man’s land” overlooked by a 20-foot fence that was erected over a decade ago in response to a series of sectarian petrol bomb and pipe-

bomb attacks. “That house behind the garden was petrol-bombed and pipe-bombed a number of times. We had chosen a difficult and challenging site,” she said.

“But this is about working together as a team and growing together. It’s not about the horticulture necessarily — it’s about the community-building aspect of it. Once we have finished our planting and divvying up the jobs we sit down and have a yarn about the area. It’s a brilliant springboard for community action.”

The garden isn't the same as an allotment — instead, the gardeners divide up the tasks, work together and share the harvest as it ripens.

“It will be their garden — we work with the people but it will be their own thing,” Siobhan said.

“We have people who have trauma in their lives — there are people coming here who have depression, some people who feel isolated, others who want to get involved in the community.” The scheme was funded under the Belfast PEACE III Plan with support from Ulster Garden Villages and Belfast City Council.

Anyone interested in getting involved can add their name to the waiting list by contacting Grow at Belfastcommunitygardens@gmail.com.

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