The enticing name alone conjures up an air of something special. One of Glasgow’s Southside gems, The Hidden Gardens offer a welcome refuge from hectic city life and a wonderful opportunity for people to connect with nature.
History matters, so knowing a little of the background to The Hidden Gardens is a worth-while exercise. Over a century ago, in 1893 to be precise, The Hidden Gardens didn’t exist. Instead the site was a tram shed and given that trams were arguably the life-blood of Glasgow transport until the 1960s the tram depot had a fairly single-minded purpose .
When the trams went, the building was transformed (logically it seems) into a Transport Museum and that was that until 1986, when the museum was somewhat ironically itself transported to new premises. The empty building however was destined for a new lease of life and reinvented as a theatre and thus the wonderfully popular Tramway found its feet.
Today behind the theatre sits a garden that is as popular with visitors as the theatre is with reviewers.
The Hidden Gardens, an independent charitable trust, is a friendly spot where the local community can brush up against nature, relax in a thriving garden and learn a little about horticulture. It’s a transformation that those early tram visionaries would surely have approved of.
Make no mistake The Hidden Gardens is a marvellous public greenspace. It not only connects people with nature, it connects people with each other.
That’s important. Pollokshields and Govanhill, the Glasgow districts most readily associated with the Gardens and Theatre, is a very ethnically diverse area. Bringing people together and helping them integrate with each other really matters. Contributing to the ongoing success of the gardens naturally relies on harnessing teamwork and this in turn thrives on acknowledging different backgrounds whilst focussing on a shared goal.
Last year the Hidden Gardens were able to celebrate a number of successful projects. For example their ‘Lazy Days, Busy Bees’ event combined bee activities with garden tours and even a spot of Tai Chi. The wonderful world of butterflies and bugs was explored in the ‘Butterflies, Bugs and Beasties’ event which also linked to mindful garden walks and herb growing workshops.
Add to this events as varied as evening story telling under the stars and a coffee/chocolate gathering which looked at the history of these two foods and you can see that variety was a key element of the events at Hidden Gardens.
Hustle and bustle are the norm in this hectic part of Glasgow, so the tranquillity of a garden has real worth. How to lure visitors in through the doors?
A dedicated team of gardening volunteers did a makeover for the entrance area. The floral display they created offered a vibrant display of seasonal flowers and now helps to create an immediate sense of flowing towards the gardens. Enthusiastic volunteers looked to upcycle materials to create a functioning flower press. They found materials close to hand: bolts, nuts, old newspapers and reused cardboard packaging. Coupled with attractive new welcome signs there is a genuine sense of arrival at The Hidden Gardens.
As one volunteer neatly put it “The new entrance gives a flavour of what’s to come upon entering the gardens, bringing a little of the outside in.”
It was a slightly different route into the Hidden Gardens for Saatviki and Eilidh who as part of the Duke of Edinburgh award decided to volunteer at the Hidden Gardens. They helped with weekend gardening, repotting, labelling, bat watching and star-gazing nights and through it all thoroughly enjoyed the range of people they met.
Saatviki summed up the positive experience neatly when she said that “During the weekends, I helped with the gardening. There were a variety of tasks to help out with such raking and refilling flower beds. I have learned a lot about gardening and different species of plants. I have become more social and happy to talk to new people. In addition it has helped me get fitter as well. I would highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys being outdoors and mingling with new people. It is a hefty job but very rewarding and fun!”
Culture, nature and shared experience all come together at the Hidden Gardens. Add to the mix a rich menu of events and activities and the community value of this site is clear to see.
Albert Drive, where the Gardens sit, has undergone many changes over the years. It may no longer be on the leafy fringes of the city but it remains an area keen to embrace the ‘green roots’ that Glasgow is famous for. And like those famous old trams it is very much on the right tracks.
The Green Infrastructure Fund is part of the Scottish Government’s current European Regional Development Fund programme, which runs through to 2023. This is one of two ERDF Strategic Interventions led by NatureScot – the other is the Natural & Cultural Heritage Fund.
You can follow the European Structural Funds blog for ESF activities, news and updates. For twitter updates go to @scotgovESIF or use the hashtags #ERDF and #europeanstructuralfunds