‘Truly a com­mu­nity ef­fort’

Clutha Leader - - FRONT PAGE - MARY-JO TOHILL

On a win­try day in July last year, two hardy, green-thumbed Clutha women, Beatrice Pratt and Robyn Bell, braved the cold on an empty plot in James St, and spoke of es­tab­lish­ing Bal­clutha’s first com­mu­nity gar­den.

Less than 18 months on, their dream has borne if not fruit just yet, def­i­nitely veg­eta­bles, and a nom­i­na­tion for a na­tional gar­den­ing award.

The trans­for­ma­tion of a bare quar­ter-acre sec­tion, into the Bal­clutha Com­mu­nity Gar­den, has earned the cre­ators one of five fi­nal­ist spots in the Gar­dena Gar­dener of the Year awards run by Fair­fax Magazines’ NZ Gar­dener.

How­ever, Pratt, a re­tired school teacher, and Bell a cafe owner, were quick to say it was ’’truly a com­mu­nity ef­fort’’ that led to the gar­den’s lo­cal and na­tional recog­ni­tion.

The gar­den also won them the health and well­be­ing sec­tion at the re­cent Clutha Trust­power Com­mu­nity Awards.

‘‘It’s so much fur­ther on than we could ever have thought,’’ Pratt said.

They started with six raised beds, which quickly dou­bled to 12, and then in­creased to 18, and they’ll add 12 more plots when pos­si­ble.

‘‘The pub­lic sup­port is over­whelm­ing and the gar­den needs to ex­pand to meet the de­mand,’’she said.

Most of what can be seen on the plot, owned by Colin Demp­ster, has been do­nated, in­clud­ing tools, timber, tun­nel house, soil, gravel and time by Bal­clutha busi­nesses and ser­vice groups.

What Pratt and Bell love most about the gar­den is the bring­ing to­gether of dif­fer­ent age groups, from pen­sion­ers to young chil­dren. It’s be­come a place for peo­ple to so­cialise.

‘‘We’re want­ing to en­cour­age fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to be the next care­tak­ers, and take it over,’’ Pratt said.

It’s also teach­ing peo­ple about grow­ing food and nu­tri­tion.

‘‘We had some­one turn up who had never eaten sil­ver­beet or cooked veg­eta­bles,’’ she said.

Peo­ple can pick ve­gies on Satur­days 10am to 12 noon for a gold coin do­na­tion.

A work­ing bee will be held on Sun­day from 1pm.

Peo­ple can vote on­line, or send in a Gar­dena vot­ing form, un­til Novem­ber 1. The win­ners will be an­nounced in the De­cem­ber issue of NZ Gar­dener.

MARY-JO TOHILL/STUFF

Bal­clutha Com­mu­nity Gar­den work­ers: Mun­roe Bunting, Diane Bennett and Jane Hut­ton, Alan Ter­aki, Beatrice Pratt and Robyn Bell.

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