Creating the Community Garden

We moved from mid-Wales to Cardiff in 1970. We chose 17, Insole Gardens as our new home thus sharing a garden wall with what is now the Community Garden of Insole Court for nearly 40 years; we moved from that house in 2010. We still live in Llandaff but not in Insole Gardens.

To a certain extent the wheel has turned full cycle for in those halcyon days, there were four full-time gardeners, a head gardener, a live-in caretaker and a full-time park keeper and the grounds were kept in immaculate condition. I’m pleased to see that we are heading in that direction again. So close was the relationship between the Court staff and the local community that on two retirement occasions, the residents saw fit to organise presents and presentations to the staff concerned.

Then came the “cuts” and they were savage where the staffing of Insole Court House and particularly gardens were concerned. In next to no time, house and gardens began to look sadly neglected. Weeds, bramble, shrubs and, above all, sycamore trees grew in profusion in the former Victorian kitchen garden. Youngsters from far and wide regarded it as an adventure playground; they camped out and lit fires On one occasion the fire brigade was called out. Such was the extent of the growth of the sycamores that we complained to the Parks Department because branches of trees were scraping against the panes of the bedroom bay window overlooking the Court. A temporary solution was arrived at; a metre wide corridor was cleared the other side of the wall to keep the wilderness at bay. It still meant that once a week, I had to climb onto the wall to cut back invasive growth.

So when we set up the Insole Court Community Garden Group in 2009/10 the first problem was to get rid of the trees; Parks workers cut them down for us so that a workforce of locals, about 40 in all, could get at and clear the shrubs and weeds; but we were left with the stumps and no machinery available to get deep enough, not even the Parks Department had access to the necessary. We cultivated where we could, but it was not very satisfactory. This went on for some months until Peter Hamblin, the then Head of Parks, announced triumphantly that his friend and colleague, the Head of Cemeteries, had agreed to provide a small JCB to do the job. As someone said, it was appropriate that equipment that was normally used to bury the dead had now brought something to life, the ICCGG. We were well and truly underway. There were to be other obstacles, alarms and excursions, but nothing insurmountable.

John Isaacs April 2020.

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