‘Gardening has substantially saved my life’: one abounding Glasgow community


Look during Wee Jackie go. Four-foot-nine, 43 years old, gabbing nonstop, grafting nonstop, her full name – Jacqueline – tattooed on a behind of her neck, she shoves that dumpcart around a garden like Glasgow’s possess Sisyphus. “I don’t know where I’d be though this garden,” she says. “I was in a right horrible, deep, dim place. Up to my eyes in debt.” She smiles. “This place has been life-changing.”

We are in Riverside Garden, partial of a Riverside Hall village centre, in Govan, Glasgow. On a southern bank of a Clyde, Govan predates a city into that it was after subsumed and retains a certain autonomy of mind. The area is mostly compared with hardship and tough men. Locals find this wearisome. They will tell we that crime and damage statistics do not paint a loyal character, that is a plain-spoken love and instinct for oneness in a face of life’s struggles. A pleasing village garden in Govan is not an anomaly. It is a ideal countenance of a suggestion of a place – earthy, caring, everybody mucking in together.

Squeezed between a housing estate and a bustling road, on what was a littered site left by a demolished tenement, a garden is about a distance of dual tennis courts. Opened final summer, it was designed and part-funded by Stalled Spaces, a legislature programme that supports village groups in building underused land.

At a centre are dual lifted beds, fervent with flowers – cosmos, forget-me-nots, granny’s carp – and crowned by high lengths of pipe, embellished red, white and black in loyalty to a funnels of a Waverley paddle steamer, docked nearby. By a opening is a maple tree planted by Jeremy Corbyn, a Labour leader, final year. The maple is deepest red, that seems apt, though a lettuce planted around a bottom is of reduction apparent domestic significance. Perhaps Corbyn, after all, is a romainer.

Wild flowers in Riverside Garden. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for a Guardian

Jackie Murphy is one of about 20 regulars who garden here for pleasure and as a approach of coping with a accumulation of issues, including obsession and bad mental and earthy health. She was a heroin user for roughly 20 years and used a prescribed surrogate methadone for 8 more. She credits a garden with giving her certainty to finally come off methadone altogether; she has been drug-free for some-more than 6 months.

Apple and pear trees, as good as blackcurrant, redcurrant and strawberry underbrush line one side of a garden. A polytunnel is planted with cucumber, tomatoes and melons. Each gardener is given their possess bed, typically planted with potatoes, onions, turnips (“tatties, ingins, neeps”) and anything else compulsory to make a robust soup. It’s all giveaway to take home.

The garden is enclosed by a steel fence. This is to forestall desolation and theft, though also acts as a range of what, to a gardeners, is a protected space. Struggling to stay well-off or sober? You will find a listening ear and good recommendation from people who, really likely, have been by something similar. The many abounding stand here is stories.

Taking a mangle from strimming, Eddie Harkins tells his. “Gardening has substantially saved my life,” he says. Harkins is in liberation from alcoholism. He started celebration during 16, self-medicating for panic attacks, and by his early 20s had a critical problem. In his final year of drinking, he was hospitalised 7 times. He quit during 40, 4 years ago. Gardening keeps mind and physique busy, he explains – we don’t get stranded in a residence or in your possess head. “It’s food for a soul.”

Eddie’s partner is Jane Burdass, a veteran gardener here. She’s 54, comes from Hull, has seen it all and kept on trowelling. In a early 1980s she common a prosaic with Paul Heaton; a fledgling Housemartin rehearsed in a kitchen. (She is “Jane” from The Beautiful South’s Song For Whoever.) Her position here is saved by a National Lottery, though one senses income is low on her list of priorities. She isn’t only given plants, she’s given people: David Fraser, a late cab driver, who had to give adult his subsidy following a stroke; Christine Gaynor, whose possess health issues are soothed by entrance here; Kellyann Hampson, who brings along her boys, and finds it helps her depression; Basil “Gibby” Gibson, survivor of 3 heart attacks, who tells that story with a honour of a striker reliving a hat-trick.

It is tempting, essay about Riverside, to strech for metaphors: renewal, regeneration, immature shoots of recovery. The gardeners themselves are good wakeful of this fundamental symbolism. Ask John Thomson. Eight years ago, in his early 40s, after a genocide of his mother, he had a shaken breakdown. He was vital in a one-bedroom flat, felt trapped; had stress attacks, persperate lashing, a smothering blackness. For anyone who has left by that arrange of experience, a event to spend a days outdoor flourishing roses, lupins, foxgloves is not a pleasing diversion – it’s a lifeline.


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