Move over New York – Northern Ireland has got its very own High Line as a former railway viaduct has been transformed into a community garden.
Spanning the River Maine in Randalstown, the project – the first of its kind across Ireland – is just one of four installations across the UK which have been designated a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Community Garden as part of National Gardening Week (02 – 08 May 2022).
Officially opening the garden, with hundreds of visitors descending upon the suspended garden – christened ‘Elevation’ – Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Billy Webb said:
“Designed in conjunction with the local community, this popular recreational pathway will become a destination hot spot that is equal parts working garden and world-class attraction for locals and visitors alike.
“The repurposing of what was already an iconic heritage landmark into a picturesque restorative space will undoubtedly increase tourism footfall to such a beautiful part of Northern Ireland, which in turn helps to boost the economy.
“We have all seen the important role that gardens and outdoor spaces have played over the past few years when it comes to our physical and mental wellbeing. With its beautiful walking routes, projects such as this will allow enhance the town even further and allow us to create a more vibrant future for all.”
The garden will offer a mix of sustainable pollinator-friendly planting, extended bee corridors, shelter for hibernating species, as well as seeds and berries for birds.
An intergenerational team will maintain the site, which has seating and areas for people to get together and facilitate workshops, according to community organisation Tidy Randalstown, who were the Northern Ireland recipients of the RHS Community Garden award.
Helen Boyd, chair of the local volunteer group, explained more:
“As well as being an exciting and distinctive garden on such a magnificent site, Elevation will provide an important restorative space for the people who live in the area.
“With its fresh air and beautiful plants, as well as being away from busy roads, means everyone will want to meet here. This will be a much-needed place for the people of Randalstown, whose wellbeing will benefit from the sights, scents and sounds which greet them in this community garden.
In conjunction with the local community, we have all worked together to create a garden of considerable significance, one which is a true representation of the viaduct’s industrial past and takes its future to a whole new level.”
The garden’s designer, Johnny Knox, said it was a “privilege” to work on a cherished local landmark.
“What’s most exciting is that a vibrant garden in this setting has the potential to transcend and give back more to the community than what the viaduct could in its original form.
“There are also elements to give a nod to the history and original function of the site. By using brass arches shaped in the scaled outline of an old railway carriage, I hope to emulate something of the grandeur associated with this era of transport. I look forward to it being enjoyed for generations and seeing it expand and grow in time,” he said.
Elevation Community Garden is now open to the public.