Fixed to one of the tall advertising hoarding boundary fences that separates the ‘Community Peace Garden’ from the hustle and bustle of one of Newport’s main artery roads were a number of signs saying ‘peace’ in a variety of the 22 local languages.
In February 2005 the mayor of Newport Paul Cockeram planted a tree of peace and subsequently the garden was opened in July 2005 to encourage peace-making into Community House’s activities, thereby reinforcing Community House’s motto ‘ Building up caring community’ – locally through individuals, nationally, through networking with other churches and organisations, globally, through contacts with people in other countries.
Community House, is a Christian centre where people of all faiths are welcome, located in the multicultural Maindee district of Newport. As soon as you enter the main hall, you are tempted out into the garden via a series of double doors.
Looking out your eye follows along the organically shaped paving to a mosaic seat, raised herb beds and planting beds that will soon soften the tall boundary fences and is taken up) the trunk of a magnificent walnut tree that is a central feature of the garden. This tree, which provides valuable shade in the height of the summer and screens the view of the street, was planted soon after the opening of the Centre, which replaced the original building, whose foundations were sinking. Apart from this lovely tree, the garden had been only rough grass for many years.
Development of the peace garden
The inspiration for the peace garden stemmed from Cyril Summers who was a minister based at the original Presbyterian Church during the 1950’s. He was a dedicated pacifist and in the anti nuclear arms movement, who became the Mayor of Newport and visited Hiroshima as part of an event bringing mayors from across the world together. Subsequently, Ingrid Wilson a dedicated member of Community House also visited Hiroshima as part of a peace mission. Community House also had close links with the women who protested at the American missile base at Greenham Common.
In 2004 an opportunity arose for the garden to be improved through money from Newport Council who also provided assistance in accessing an European Environmental Grant to create the Community Peace Garden.
During the spring of 2004 Community House commissioned a local community designer to begin consulting with the local community that used the centre to find out what they would like to have in the garden. General consensus found that the children wanted an area of grass to play on, the youth contingent wanted artwork and the older users were keen to have seating. Once these basic desires were established the designers ran a second session at which photos of various design elements were displayed and community members then voted on what they wanted. A variety of ideas came from this session ranging from a covered play area, raised flowerbeds to fragrant plants for blind garden users and a water feature. These ideas were put to a vote –with everyone agreeing that a water feature was one of the most important things, as it would provide a feeling of tranquility in the hubbub of the city.
The final design
Contractors carried out all the hard landscaping works and some elements of the planting with various donations of plants and money coming from the community and users of Community House.
The designers have carefully retained the important walnut tree focus of the garden and incorporated the various requested features, which include seating, a raised herb bed, grass areas and a pergola-covered terrace, which are linked by a meandering path. To encapsulate the theme of peace the overall colour scheme is blue and white. This is evident in much of the planting, which includes, hebes, thyme, clematis, hydrangeas. iris and in the blue mosaic curved seating that incorporates ceramic handprints of pensioners who attend the centre and which have been fixed onto the seat by local children!
The garden encourages various opportunities for group activities such as those of the Ashianna Asian ladies group who have taken a keen interest in cultivating the raised herb bed. There is an exciting plan to create the garden's first birthday meal in July 2006 based around the herbs grown in the garden.
Plans / Future
There are plans developing to connect into the annual Maindee Festival, the theme of which is Building Bridges, because the famous Newport Transporter Bridge celebrates its 100th birthday in 2006 What year. As Brian Selby a trustee of Community House says, " the theme of the Peace garden is also building bridges - between the various cultures that make up Maindee’s community."
There will also be opportunities to strengthen links with the nearby Maindee Primary School where seventy percent of the pupils are of ethnic minority origin and connect the Peace Garden with the Religious Education curriculum
The garden continues to evolve with plans for a solar powered water feature as the centerpiece for the seating area and a trellis with climbers to cover with greenery the backs of the advertising hoardings that help to make the Peace Garden an oasis of tranquility in the heart of Newport.
Presbyterian Church of Wales, Eton Road, Newport NP 19 0BL