For such a vibrant cultural city, one that thrives on lane ways, hidden pockets and hipster secrets, the Docklands precinct at the west end of the city is a strange anomaly of Melbourne. New Quay was designed as a food and wine mecca, and yet, now in its eighth year, the precinct is still as lifeless as the plant life in the Yarra River. The apartment towers valiantly resist the buffeting of the wind tunnels for which the region has become known, and the tumbleweeds bouncing down the walkways around the water are mostly undisturbed by human traffic. That is, of course, with the exception of Friday night work crowds desperate for a cold beverage to drown another week.
But believe it or not, the intention of this post is not to condemn. Because finally, there is a pocket of true joy in this mass of wind, concrete and strange dwellings. Urban Reforestation has created an urban garden, and a charming one at that, at North Wharf in Victoria Harbour. Consider all I said about New Quay relevant to the Victoria Harbour precinct also.
But back to the garden. This installation is based on something the Docklands as a whole lacks: community. Through a charmingly-developed site, and classes and workshops, UR – the brain-child of 25-year-old environmentalist Emily Ballantyne-Brodie – is campaigning for vibrancy in this pot of soullessness. Good on them! Classes include balcony gardening and worm farming, as well as bread-making and pickling. And in the meantime, you can visit the garden in your lunch break and spend time in the chill out area, the sand pit, see the worm farm or read the community noticeboard. Or visit their shopfront next to Safeway on Merchant St and admire the cute-as-can-be citrus tress, chilli plants and gardening tools, and – if you're anything like me – lament the lack of gardening prowess you possess, but buy a plant anyway (and post reminders around the house: feed and water. prune. shade. feed and water).
Hey, this may just be worth leaving the Paris-end of town for.
(image above is an artist impression of the community garden).