There’s a quiet revolution in the suburbs

I reckon we live in a pretty stock-standard Aussie suburb.

Lambton is one of Newcastle’s older suburbs having formed around the Lambton Colliery in 1871.

It’s a pretty suburb with lovely parks and a real sense of space. Wide suburban streets feature, some tree-lined, some not, a cycleway and plenty of playing fields.

Down the laneways and back streets of Lambton you’ll see a mix of old and new houses, a smattering of trampolines, the odd chook shed and choko vine. I have regularly walked these streets for more than eleven years and it has struck me in recent times that Lambton is changing.

You certainly get the sense that people are thinking differently about their spaces whether they be the backyard, front verge or shared parklets. It’s a quiet kind of revolution, one that you could whiz past in your car and not even notice. However, if you do happen to notice i.e. stick your head over the odd fence (or whatever!), what you see is a demonstration of a growing resilience in our community that is really very powerful.

And in no way do I expect that Lambton is unique, I expect you could walk around most suburbs and notice quite significant changes to the way people are choosing to live. What I see is a shifting back towards the self sufficiency of the wartime and post-war eras. Not every home, but many more than before.

While the reasons for this are many and varied and very well documented, it’s fabulous to explore your own neighbourhood and meet the change-makers.

So here, in a radius of about 2kms, is what I found in my neighbourhood this week that I thought was worth sharing.

First stop a permaculture haven at Ken’s house. Ken, a GP and father of four, has been working steadily over the past 12 months converting his front and back yards into productive edible gardens.  I popped in to have a quick tour while he and Permaculture specialist Lachy from Tree Frog Permaculture were having their weekly blitz.

What first caught my eye about Ken’s place is his unusual front verge. It has been converted into an interesting mix of fragrant edible natives offering lovely shade and reducing the heat off the road.

Ken’s front verge has native mints, ginger, lemon myrtle to name a few

In the back yard Ken has installed six large garden beds (with several more in the making). He is growing everything from Jerusalem artichokes to water spinach, sugar cane to macadamias.

Oh and Chia plants!

Oh and Chia plants!

His garden is absolutely abundant with carpets of comfrey and sweet potato and plenty of colourful edible flowers attracting bees and other beneficial insects.

The contented chooks complete the picture reaping the benefits of Ken and Lachy’s efforts when weeding the garden. I left with an armful of yummy artichokes and sweet potato to add to the evening meal! Thanks guys!

Some of the day's harvest

Some of the day’s harvest

Just around the corner is The Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre. I have been curious to find out what happens in an around this centre particularly with regards to its wonderfully well maintained community garden, so I made a time to sit down and have a chat with one of the volunteers at the Centre, Ed.

Lambton's Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre

Lambton’s Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre

I discovered that the garden was developed with support from Newcastle City Council and Permaculture Hunter about five or so years ago, as a space for people of diverse cultural backgrounds to practise and share traditional and contemporary expressions of their culture.

A core group of local residents keep the garden going. The gardening group meets 3 or 4 times a year and people tend to their own plots as well as participate in working bees when the garden needs some extra love.

Plots contain broad beans, snow peas, spinach, comfrey, strawberries, you name it!

Plots contain broad beans, snow peas, spinach, comfrey, strawberries, you name it!

I picked a few herbs for dinner and left Ed to the after school activities he was running for local children.

Next stop and just a short stroll around the corner from the neighbourhood centre is a real little find – Kids Vegies on the Verge.

A bunch of primary school aged kids took it upon themselves to rally their parents to convert their front verge to a vegie patch. The result of their hard labour is fabulous!

Kids on the verge!

Kids on the verge!

The kids get together most weekends to tend to the garden. Their parents must be very chuffed! Their garden is bathed in sunshine and is producing corn, chillies, basil, passionfruit, you name it!

Little signs welcome you to the garden and mark out the herbs and vegetables that are ready to pick. They have a bean teepee trelise which my kids would just love.

While the kids were at school the day I visited, our family will definitely stop by again to congratulate them on their efforts!

So, whether its planting trees that attracts more native birds, planting on a previously barren verge to combat the heat of the road or simply turning an unproductive space into a productive one, there is opportunity for positive change in our neighbourhoods.

What gems can you find in yours?

 

 

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