Heather’s pathway grows a community

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Community gardener Heather Powell… “I feel that communities have broken down quite a lot.” Photo by Danielle Nohra
Community gardener Heather Powell… “I feel that communities have broken down quite a lot.” Photo by Danielle Nohra
RESTRICTED by an overgrowth of weeds and plants, a Melba resident couldn’t even open her back gate that “supposedly” unlatched on to a public pathway.

The pathway off Goldner Circuit looked like wild bush land, with tall grass creeping over Heather Powell’s fence, stopping the gate from opening.

“It was totally neglected, I hardly knew there was a gate in the fence,” she says.

Frustrated that she couldn’t use the pathway Heather says she cursed and swore at it for two years and then thought about moving houses.

Now, after just turning 73 over Christmas, making it her seventh birthday in that house, Heather walks freely out of the back gate every day to water an assortment of plants.

It all changed four years ago when she forced open the gate and started clipping the grass herself and using a pickaxe on the “hard as cement” ground.

from-heathers-phone-2She says in the country she was born, Ireland, “we get things done”.

Heather didn’t want to wait any longer for someone responsible for the pathway to fix it, so she took matters into her own hands.

As the days went by and Heather continued to hack away at the grass and dirt people would stop by and say: “Oh, is that you doing this?”

“One afternoon outside the gate was a whole bag of Pig’s Ear and a note,” says Heather.

Heather’s gardening project on the public path spread as quickly as the Pig’s Ear and soon enough many people were helping out in their own way.

“The lady over the fence gave me some strawberries,” she says.

“Another person saw I love purple and brought down a lavender plant.

“And Jerry, my wonderful Italian neighbour, planted fig trees and rose cuttings.”

With the help of others the pathway was really coming along, but Heather had to overcome a few issues first.

“Because of the slope I had to do something to stop the water from washing the plants down to the bottom of the path, which has happened before,” she says.

“Then I saw my neighbour with all these wooden palings and I marched up to him and asked: ‘Do you need those palings?’”

Heather says another neighbour gave her some roof tiles and, with the tiles and the palings, she created a channel to protect the plants from being washed away by the rain.

from-heathers-phoneHeather has been delighted because more people are using the path now that it’s been cleaned up.

“The response has been really positive,” she says.

“I think people enjoy it, some people say: ‘I came down this way to see the changes you’ve made’.

“I’m not even a gardener. I just love working with gardens.”

Before Christmas Heather and her neighbour Jerry planned a neighbourhood block party to celebrate with all the people who contributed to the garden.

“I feel that communities have broken down quite a lot,” says Heather.

“It’s interesting because people say: ‘Oh they’ll nick things’ being on a public path.

“This garden is for everybody. I say to people to take the spinach leaves as they walk past.

“I even put out a sign saying: ‘Please help yourself’, nature is so abundant.”


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Danielle Nohra
Danielle Nohra is a "CityNews" staff journalist.

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