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  • Writer's picturekatelcurtis

Playtime in the garden

The afternoon started with a kārearea (New Zealand falcon) settling in the big pohutukawa tree, before soaring over the greenhouse and away down the maunga. It was going to be a good day in the gardens. On Sunday, 30 April, the Miramar Prison Gardens hosted about 170 members, visitors, and friends for a Nature Play Day as part of the Wellington City Council’s City Nature Challenge. Joakim Liman of the Te Motu Kairangi Ecological Restoration project spoke about the community’s efforts to re-wild the peninsula by planting native trees and the wildlife that is now returning and thriving as a result. The kārearea and her three friends now nesting on Matai Moana | Mt Crawford agree it's working.

We shared the history of the gardens with visitors. People have been gardening in the prison grounds in the 1880s. The people who were imprisoned at Wellington Prison grew food for themselves and at one point, the animals at the Wellington Zoo. The garden grounds were originally much more extensive than the 1.1 acres we have today, including a farm site of 80 acres further down the hill. The gardens and greenhouse were a significant part of the rehabilitation programme at the prison, providing native seedlings for the re-vegetation of the northern end of Miramar and many other parts of Wellington. The Motu Kairangi Ecological Restoration project has now resumed this tradition.

We shared kai made from the gardens’ produce, beautifully prepared by the team at Travelling Kitchen. Our bees contributed their honey, which was drizzled over edible flower petals and devoured by children and adults alike. Talk about eating local.

We shared art, guided by our artists in residence Manju and Ruth who helped children make paints from natural materials gathered from the gardens. They added to the ever-evolving mural on the wall of the greenhouse.

We shared the day with our neighbouring farm. Families visited with the cows, including Harriet Houdini who made another attempt to escape, but thankfully not all the way down to Scorching Bay this time. Henri the farmer told us that her horses, Syd and Theo had never had so many pats and carrots in one day.

We shared our knowledge of the wider area with a new trail map that takes in Māori and military history, and some of the best views in Wellington.

Most of all, we shared our love for this magical part of our whenua, and the community that grows within it. If you haven’t been to visit in a while, come on up and explore. And if you were with us on Sunday, thanks for coming and we hope we’ll see you again soon.

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