Fatima community garden is part of the growth of a neighbourhood

Doug Hazel of the Back of the Pipes Residents Association tells The Liberty how their green-patch project got started, and how it is recovering from a pandemic lockdown that became a lockout.

What began as a group of people who wanted to take care of the area that they inhabited turned into an innovative way to bring people closer together.

“One of our main concerns was, how do we get the community to interact with each other?” Doug Hazel, a member of the Back of the Pipes Residents Association, says.

The neighbourhood, between Marrowbone Lane and Rialto, gets its name from its proximity to the Guinness Brewery and its famous elevated tubes and pipes.

In the years leading up the beginning of the community garden, there had been a number of new developments in the area including the long-running demolition and redevelopment of Fatima Mansions – part of an urban renewal scheme in the area to build 600 new affordable and private housing units.

The steady rise in private rental properties in the area meant there was a new generation of people entering into the area that “simply didn’t know each other”, Hazel says.  

In 2010, at the height of the recession, residents decided they would renovate a derelict site into a garden that could be enjoyed by all members of the community.

“We reached out to Dublin City Council (DCC) and were basically told that the land had plans to be built on – but in the meantime, we thought, it’s a project that will help bring people together.”

Over the course of the next few months DCC granted the association a letter of comfort, which meant that “basically we were allowed to stay and could start applying for community grants to help further develop the project”, Hazel says.  

The beginning of the community gardens. Picture credit: Doug Hazel

 At the beginning of the project, Hazel recalls, the site was “literally just a pile of rubble”.

The area was transformed into a community garden by a small group of volunteers: “If you’re just consistent with something, people naturally gravitate towards that.

“Suddenly we had people kind of asking if they could do anything to get involved or help out.”  

After three years of watching this garden bloom and thrive within the community, DCC reached out and asked the association if they would be interested in taking over even more land, “because they could see the benefit of community development”.

The project then went on to cover a nearby car park along with a football field that had been abandoned.  

The team of volunteers split the area into several different projects that they hoped will accommodate a wide range of people.

These projects include a berry den, a sensory garden, and even a ‘parent and child’ space. People who wanted to contribute were given a patch of land and it was up to them to decide how to use and maintain it. 

“We were locked out, and all of our gardeners were locked out”

Doug Hazel

The impact of Covid-19 and the multiple lockdowns throughout the last year has bee rough. The project, Hazel says, was “pretty much shut down” by DCC.

“We were locked out, and all of our gardeners were locked out,” Hazel says.

But the lockdown became a chance to restore the gardens. Hazel, who had recently returned to college to complete a degree in horticulture, says he asked DCC if he could maintain the gardens in order to keep them going throughout the lockdown.  

One of his main goals was, he says, to “try to return the garden to the original idea”.

While the garden had been divided into patches given to various members of the community, the overall garden was not being maintained as well as had been intended.

Hazel and others have ensured the garden has been worked on and maintained throughout the last year and it has “been turned back into what it was originally meant to be: a communal garden space”.  

The community garden as of March 2020. Photo credit: Doug Hazel 

“The silver lining (of lockdown) is the fact that we could realise this opportunity,” Hazel says.

Post-Covid plans for these gardens include the restoration of the ‘Grow Dome’ project – a new and innovative way to grow vegetables using harvested rainwater and solar energy – in one important patch, called Flanagans Fields.

The Dome has suffered some leaks and issues with temperature, but the association is hopeful they can get it up and running in the next year.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *