Oaklands St community garden – the pleasures of playing in the dirt… - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

Photos: Supplied.

The Oaklands St Community Garden at Alexandra Hills has a long history of serving the community. Some folk come initially for the gardening. Others come for the social contact and company, find what they’re seeking and settle in. Some come for the company and discover, unexpectedly, that they have a “green thumb” and that the gentle reward of rearing plants sits comfortably with them.

The garden’s home base, Keith Surridge Park, originally housed a basketball court but vandalism on the site prompted moves to have a more continuous presence there, less likely to be despoiled. Disability support organisation Connect 2, under Lynn Quirk, auspiced the establishment of the garden in 2005. Within a few years, founder member Tony Chapman, backed by a dedicated team including Connect 2’s Jamie Wynn, became established in the role of administrator. Tony’s experience goes back to his childhood in Sussex, where his father was a cowman and gardener for the local “big house”. As a young man he took on most of the gardening duties when his father enlisted in World War 2 and his experience stood him in good stead at Oakland St., of which he has many fond memories.

“The vision was to provide a place for people, especially those with disabilities, to meet and be together as a community. I felt a real sense of satisfaction in seeing people sharing conversation, cuppas and care,” he says.

The garden continues to thrive, supported by a base of volunteers of varying abilities, experience and age. Families, playgroups and individuals all find a common joy in maintaining their social connection hub. Over the years support from Council, Rotary, Lions and Alexandra Hills Men’s Shed has seen the construction of an amenities block, a rotunda, a shed, water tanks, the purchase of a ride on mower and play equipment for the younger visitors.

Alison Hallett, President of the garden committee, says that the garden has strong links to the greater community. “We’ve always had a link to the disability community; the garden’s wishing well was a result of that early connection,” she says.

“Last year was a year of major restructuring and planning; this year will see initiatives in community education and developing our fundraising efforts. We’ll be building on our experience of composting workshops, worm farms and food waste recycling. Council support has enabled us to build all-ability flower and vegetable garden beds, accessible for people in wheelchairs.”

Alison says that one of the main attractions at the garden is the Japanese-inspired Walking Trail, which winds through plantings of tropical and native plants, such as native raspberry, midgin berry, and native hibiscus. Close to the Walking Trail is the Food Forest, which Alison says, in terms of a garden, “used to be a bit nothing”.

“It was always swampy during wet weather; lots of water that we couldn’t utilise. With Council help, truckloads of forest mulch, a lot of cardboard and the installation of a sprinkler, we now have a manageable Food Forest that produces vegetables, herbs, chillis, pawpaws, figs, pumpkins and a host of useful fresh foods. With that and the flowers that we grow the garden has become a really productive and enjoyable place to be.”

Alison says that membership – which currently numbers about 80 – is open to anyone with skills or interest. A Composting for Beginners workshop will be held on Wednesday 7th February, from 9.30am to 11:00am; cost $10, morning tea included. For more information about the Oaklands St. Community Garden visit

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