WOODLAND paths, rare trees, exotics, a secret garden, pretty ponds, a well-established arboretum and several muscly kangaroos are all hidden away in a soon-to-be public park in Weston Creek – and the community doesn’t even know it’s there, says Tim Dalton, chair of the new Fetherston Gardens Working Group.
The disused gardens – not set to be open to the public for another 12 months – were formally the grounds of the Canberra Institute of Technology Horticulture College in Heyson Street, and hadn’t been touched since the campus closed in 2002. The former classroom buildings became part of the Canberra Islamic School in 2010, with boundaries between the park and the school currently being rearranged.
Since the land was acquired by the Weston Creek Community Council for public use in November 2010, a small and determined group of volunteers have been meeting on the last Sunday of every month to help nurse the gardens back to a presentable state – and enjoy a Rotary barbecue afterwards.
“It was a bit like Miss Havisham’s garden in ‘Great Expectations’,” he says. “We’ve been climbing trees to get the ivy off, clearing paths and weeds.
“All sorts of species have been uncovered, some of which were still labelled, but it’s a lot of hard work, with a long way still to go.
“We’re always looking for more volunteers, but anyone is welcome on the working bee days to come along and have a look.”
Named after the first and longest-serving head of the Horticulture College, Tony Fetherston, Tim says the aim is for the gardens to be a community hub.
“We’d like it to be open all the time, locked at night, but a place to come for quiet time in the secret garden, or to kick a ball around with the kids in the open areas.
“It will have multiple uses; we can see Christmas markets here, mums and bubs groups, a community room and a stage, like a mini Stage 88. Weston doesn’t have anything like this.
“The plan is to host the Weston Creek Festival here next autumn, so we’re starting to plan that now and it gives us a timeline to work towards.
“At the moment we’re waiting for more government funding to be allocated; they have been very supportive so far.
“Just keeping the garden going and watered is expensive, but we need to get the master plan in place and start to move forward with building and re-irrigating.
“There’s a lot to do but a place like this will be so valuable to the community. It’s going to be a great district park.”