Piet Recour works in occupational health & safety and a couple of years ago he scaled his job down to 4 days a week. With a bit of extra time on his hands he wanted to do something for his community in Brugse Poort. He loved plants and gardening and thought about how he could help to create more green space around the area. The neighbourhood, dating back to the 19th Century, was typically crowded with houses built very close together and no trees or parks to be seen. The local government had started buying back houses to create park space, but Piet wanted to create a project working directly with citizens and their homes.
Brugse Poort is a melting pot of nationalities, with many residents recent arrivals to Belgium. They find themselves slowly build a sense of community as they get to know their neighbours. Piet decided to focus on encouraging people to grow gardens outside their houses along the street. This would create small green spaces and also help with community building and social cohesion in the area. Piet believes that spending time with one's garden out the front of a house, no matter how small, encourages people to stop and chat as they pass by. Piet had his project idea, now he needed to put it into action.
He named the project ‘De Tuinmuur’, and the idea was to put as many gardens on walls as possible in the neighbourhood. He sourced funding for the project and started the ball rolling in early 2012. He completed an inventory of the community, examining the type of garden space found in houses in the neighbourhood (in pots on window sills, in soil out the front of houses and in pots on the street front). He made an exhibition of the project plan at the local library to show examples of simple designs that people could achieve. Then he planned a big weekend of action with the help of the City Ecologist who lived locally, as well as with three students who were doing a similar project around Gent. In one weekend they created 63 gardens in the neighbourhood, also providing residents with advice on how to keep them going.
Piet’s next plan is to create a subsidy program, allowing residents who can’t afford materials like pots and seedlings to be able to access them for free. He will set up a demonstration area at his plot in Boerse Poort to show people the potential for gardening on a terrace or street front. He is also running an initiative where people can adopt a green area along their street and look after it. With Piet so committed to creating more green space in Brugse Poort I can’t wait to see what the neighbourhood looks like in a few years.