The Quiet Garden Project – a bridge of hope

Monday March 30th 2020

Ballymoney, Finvoy and Rasharkin (BFR) Parish Caring Association has come up with a blooming great idea to help achieve its mission of building ‘bridge of hope’ into the community.

Its latest initiative, the Quiet Garden Project, will blossom in a disused walled garden behind St Patrick’s Parish Church, transforming this green area into a social and therapeutic space for the whole community.

The rector, the Rev Andrew Sweeney explained: “Ballymoney, Finvoy and Rasharkin Parish Caring Association has, over the past seven years, sought to develop strong positive links with our community. We currently run a Debt Counselling Service, Life Skills Course to empower people on low incomes and with special needs to improve their quality of life. We have initiated The Job Club which gives the unemployed essential skills when seeking employment. We work closely with town’s Food Bank and we refer many clients to its doors. We have launched a weekly free lunch to offer the lonely and marginalised in our community a safe space for friendship.

“For some time now our purpose has been to be build bridges of hope into our community.”

Andrew said the parish was very excited about this latest project.

“Community garden projects are nothing new, but we think this space has the potential to be fairly unique because of its central location and how we envisage it being developed,” he said.

“There are virtually no green field sites for recreation in the heart of the town. The space we intend to use is a Victorian walled garden right beside the Glebe Estate and a ‘stone’s throw’ from the Armour Day Centre, local surgeries, the CAMS team and the Library.”

Andrew said the parish would work with outreach agencies on the Causeway coast, including Causeway Woman’s Aid and the Cheers Youth Outreach Centre in Ballymoney, as well as other clinical services, local primary schools and the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. “We believe the Quiet Garden has the potential to help individuals transform aspects of their lives,” Andrew added.

“We are confident that the development of the Quiet Garden will build a sense of connection and belonging, recognising that a programme of activity is often essential to people’s recovery and ongoing well-being. Creating a beautiful garden will, undoubtedly reduce loneliness, anxiety and depression for all who participate.”

The plan is to develop the walled garden in the following ways:

  • The Gathering Point – a quality shed with utilities for making refreshments, plus a covered decked area and pergola.
  • Raised beds for community use and educational purposes to teach primary aged children where their food comes from. Much of the produce produced will be distributed to those in need throughout the local community.
  • A small wood to be planted with a nature trail made up of harvestable varieties such as Willow to be used for workshop activities.
  • Espalier Fruit will be grown along the walls.
  • A play area for children and their families to enjoy.
  • There will be a series of paths connecting the activities with an avenue of limes leading to a centre-piece Yurt from which we will offer various workshops.
  • A brick toilet will be installed.
  • Seating and benches will be tastefully positioned around the walled garden.

Andrew said: “The Quiet Garden Project is such a powerful metaphor that underpins a full theology of God’s wonderful news, in which he empowers us to play our part in a way that expresses our true and full humanity. This is life with a purpose – life in all its abundance!”

He continued: “Our church is inspired by the vision its leadership has cast for the creation of a therapeutic garden community set in the fallow walled garden. Our plans are moving ahead and we believe, that, ‘if we build it they will come.’

Before the onset of coronavirus restrictions, some work had already been carried out in the Walled Garden. Project manager, Stanley Stewart, had cut a new entrance to accommodate a wrought iron gate; all drainage and earth work had been completed; and Arborologist, Robin Crowther, oversaw a community tree planting to coincide with National Tree Week last November.

Plans for springtime tasks may be impacted by the coronavirus restrictions, but the hope is that one day the Quiet Garden Project will open as a facility for everyone in the Ballymoney area.

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