Quite honestly in recent times the Garden Quarter has not lived up to the name. There are issues of uncollected rubbish and a messy street scape in an area which (due to a large number of multi occupancy houses) is home to many new and temporary residents who are unfamiliar with the intricacies of the local waste recycling scheme.
However, the community are taking matters in their own hands working hard to fix this and restore the Green Heritage of the Quarter with the establishment of a new Community Wildlife Garden. I talked with Nicola Samuels and Melanie Cummings, the driving forces behind the Community Garden Project: “Dig the Quarter.”
The project seized the opportunity to transform a largely neglected plot of land at the end of Orchard Street into a community asset, providing a space to sit outside and enjoy nature in a built up area where many houses do not have Gardens. The land lay undeveloped due to underlying utilities.
Nicola and Melanie were also inspired by “Broken Window Theory” which argues that damage and neglect in a neighbourhood create a norm which gives the impression that nobody cares and thus can lead to further examples of vandalism and a fear of crime. If a neighbourhood is cared for and well maintained, residents have a sense of pride and are comfortable in their surroundings. Nicola says that their initial objective was simple: “To tidy and green up the area.”
With support from local volunteers and Chester Zoo (through their Wildlife Connections Competition which aimed to support initiatives that helped increase habitats for native wildlife), fruit trees were planted to reflect the local heritage of orchards. In addition, the land has been seeded with wildflowers in order to provide a habitat for our beleaguered butterfly and bee populations. The Garden was opened in February this year and now provides a tranquil haven for local residents of the two legged, four legged and winged varieties. The aspiration to attract wildlife has succeeded; notable visitors include hedgehogs, a jay and bats.
The Garden is only one part of Dig the Quarters activities. Guerrilla Gardening has improved a number of other pieces of neglected land in the area. It is hoped that in time these pockets of greenery will form a series of urban oasis amongst the Victorian red brick.
As any Gardener knows there are always more jobs to do and volunteers are always welcomed. If you feel like undertaking some gardening tasks, breathing in the fresh air and treating your post-Christmas limbs to some exercise, you can always make contact with Nicola and Melanie by emailing them.