Manning Valley Community Gardens in Wingham has a new lease of life

Flourishing with life: Manning Valley Community Gardens volunteer co-ordinator Chelsea Hands plans to make the gardens a vibrant community space. Picture: Julia Driscoll
Flourishing with life: Manning Valley Community Gardens volunteer co-ordinator Chelsea Hands plans to make the gardens a vibrant community space. Picture: Julia Driscoll

Work for the soul produces food from the heart

Manning Valley Community Gardens, situated in the backyard of Manning Valley Neighbourhood Services at the old courthouse in Wingham, has lain fallow for a few years.

But 23-year-old Chelsea Hands is bringing new life to the gardens in her recent appointment as volunteer co-ordinator of the project.

Chelsea has reason to see her role, and the role of the garden itself, as giving rise to life, both botanical and human.

“You’re bringing something to life, you’re producing life, and that’s a really hard thing personally for me because of my endometriosis – I can’t have children,” Chelsea says.

“So for me growth and producing life is the most beautiful thing I could ever do.”

Chelsea’s illness means she is unable to work at paid employment as some days she is unable to get out of bed, and she has a lot of surgeries in her future.

She also suffers from debilitating anxiety and finds the serenity and quietness of the space therapeutic and life-affirming. What she gives to the garden she gets back in spades.

She is an experienced gardener so her mother Heather suggested to Chelsea the community gardens in Wingham could be a purposeful activity for her.

Chelsea met with Caron Watkins, manager of MVNS, who was more than happy to enlist Chelsea as a volunteer co-ordinator to get the plot back to a working garden.

Now, with the help of donations of mulch and plants, the garden is starting to grow.

But the biggest donation so far has been that of a cheque from Wingham Memorial Services Club for $716, which Chelsea says is an enormous help.

The garden’s main purpose has always been to support the MVNS Food from the Heart program, which provides free nutritious meals at lunchtime on Mondays to people in need in the community. Chelsea calls it “plot to pot”.

Local largess: Chelsea Hands and Caron Watkins (right) with vice president of the Wingham Memorial Services Club, Ron McPherson, who visited to hand over the donation. The money came from proceeds of two-up games on Anzac Day. Picture supplied.

Local largess: Chelsea Hands and Caron Watkins (right) with vice president of the Wingham Memorial Services Club, Ron McPherson, who visited to hand over the donation. The money came from proceeds of two-up games on Anzac Day. Picture supplied.

In addition, produce raised in the garden can be used in food parcels given to clients.

Chelsea has another vision for the garden – as a community gathering place, “where people can be friends, can make friends, do some gardening” and she wants to make it accessible to “people like myself, people with mental illnesses and disabilities”.

She envisages swap meets, where home gardeners and crafters can come and trade produce and plants with others.

A more immediate goal is to create a mandala garden with a herb spiral, and to reach that goal she needs help from other volunteers.

If you love gardening, or if you would love to learn gardening, and have time to spare (no matter how little), Manning Valley Community Gardens would love to hear from you.

Contact MVNS manager Caron Watkins at on 6553 5121, or drop into the centre at 4 Farquhar Street, next to the police station, between 9am and 3pm Monday to Thursday.

For more information on the Manning Valley Community Gardens visit www.mvns.org.au and click on the community gardens link.

This story New life for community garden first appeared on Wingham Chronicle.