Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

The grim, rat-infested west Belfast alley that's become a little oasis

At the opening of the newly greened alleyway were Gaelscoil Na Bhfal pupils Dáire Russell, Lorcán Phillips, Iseult Fegan Ní Mhathúna and Dubhaltach Crawford with local resident Eamon McGonigle, councillor Ciaran Beattie, urban regeneration officer Declan Hasson, and Ruth Magennis, from the West Belfast Partnership Board
At the opening of the newly greened alleyway were Gaelscoil Na Bhfal pupils Dáire Russell, Lorcán Phillips, Iseult Fegan Ní Mhathúna and Dubhaltach Crawford with local resident Eamon McGonigle, councillor Ciaran Beattie, urban regeneration officer Declan Hasson, and Ruth Magennis, from the West Belfast Partnership Board
The alleyway at La Salle Gardens in west Belfast

It used to be a rat-infested dumping ground, knee deep in fly-tipped rubbish and plagued by teenagers drinking and lighting fires.

But this alleyway at the back of a west Belfast terrace is about to blossom into a green retreat where residents can tend flowers, harvest herbs and supply their kitchens with home-grown vegetables.

The alleyway behind La Salle Gardens, off the Falls Road, has been transformed from an eyesore into a green space thanks to a ground-breaking scheme by the West Belfast Partnership Board.

Local residents worked with trainees from Springvale Learning and children from local nursery N'aoinid na Bhfal to create an environmentally friendly space in what had been a magnet for anti-social behaviour.

They have created raised herb, vegetable and fruit beds, hanging baskets, compost bins, bird boxes and seating areas that residents can use.

At one end of the alley is an open space containing an electric box, which had become a focus for anti-social behaviour. At one point, teenagers drinking there tore down a neighbouring wooden fence to fuel their fire, according to resident Eamon McGonigle.

"It was an eyesore. It wasn't a nice place to be around here. People were scared to come out at night," he said. "Now the area has been transformed into a nice area to sit out and enjoy, with bird boxes, hanging baskets and allotments. We look forward to using and maintaining the green space."

Councillor Ciaran Beattie said the alleyway had undergone an "amazing transformation" thanks to the funding provided by Challenge Fund which is delivered by Northern Ireland Environment Link and will be a lot more welcoming for people going into Willowbank Youth Club behind the site.

The alley is now full of pots planted with thyme and sage, strawberries, lettuce growing in long planters halfway up the walls, peach trees and clematis.

West Belfast Partnership Board is hoping the project will be a pilot that can be repeated in other gated alleyways.

For further information on the project contact the West Belfast Partnership Board on 028 9080 9202 or email info@wbpb.org.

FACTFILE

The Belfast Telegraph has launched a major new gardening drive called Blooming Marvellous. We're calling on gardeners and novices across Northern Ireland to take up a trowel and breathe new life into dismal gardens. We'll be launching a province-wide gardening competition and serving up a wealth of horticultural articles this spring. Whether you're a gardening club, allotment group or you've spotted something unusual among the tulips, let us know by emailing lstewart@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

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