Sometimes you don’t need to innovate to progress.

Late in 2019, the modern world didn’t understand the implications of global pandemics. The ‘C-word’ stood for climate change, not COVID, and the community of Rushworth was faced with the challenge of developing a small town, climate change adaptation project.

After several Climate Conversations meetings, it became clear that the new group had some common goals.
Many people in the group were keen gardeners and concerned about the way extreme weather affected their backyards. They had watched exotic plants suffer and fail in the heat – exacerbating their sense of hopelessness. Coupled with this was a concern for birds and animals unable to find refuge in escalating summer heatwaves.
People wanted to better understand habitat creation, resilient plant species, and the issues that face the local natural environment whilst also working on a socially inclusive, accessible, and realistic project.
Instead of tackling a brand new concept, the group chose to revitalise an existing project.

A couple of years before, the local environment group had created some indigenous wildflower beds on a weed-infested site on the edge of town. The beds were looking okay but they lacked the incentive to attract community participation. They were far from fabulous but they did have potential. The perfect foundation for a new project.

The group decided on weekly, hour-long working bees. The area became a regular hive of activity as the team weeded, pruned, re-planted, and mulched the bare earth. The Friday morning sessions were fun and pro-active and always left the members with a sense of satisfaction.
And then the second wave hit.

If love is the seventh wave, the second wave is disappointment. The group realised they wouldn’t be able to meet any longer and organisers feared the project would be forgotten but in the weeks preceding, a bond had been formed between members. The garden had responded in kind with the rewards of everlasting daisies, lemon beauty heads, and elegant spear grass, all waving in the breeze at passers-by.
But people didn’t want to lose their connection with the space, so in the many lonely months that followed, a weekly activity was maintained in the face of adversity. Masked and socially distanced, couples met to continue the work, and on November 8 when Dan declared we could all see each other again, the team reunited over a well-loved garden bed, brimming with wildflowers.

Since then the project has developed and new ideas are infiltrating the simple concept of a garden bed.
The group now includes a community food swap; sharing home-grown produce, recipes, and sometimes other inanimate objects. A regular report is written for the local newspaper and there are plans to use the beds as a seed bank, demonstration site, and art resource for botanic drawing classes, natural dyeing, and basket weaving.

The weekly working bees have been a reliable and therapeutic contact for members throughout this surreal year. The group now continues its work feeling positive, purposeful, and inspired – all the right ingredients to remedy a society fearful of the advance of global warming and looking for a way to address the effects with meaningful action. Action that brings people together, caring for their community and their environment.

By Louise Costa