What happens to a prison garden when the prison closes?
The other weekend I went for a walk, the only real objective being to find some hills – not a difficult task around these parts.
I took myself up to Maupuia, a suburb on the hills above Miramar, along the Maupuia Walkway (which I’ve belatedly found out follows what was the old Prison Road) and further on up the hill to Mt Crawford.
At the top is the old Wellington Prison, formerly Mt Crawford Prison, which shut its doors about a year ago. We went to an open day just prior to its closure. There is still no decision on what is to become of the land – possibly the most prime land in Wellington – with campaigners doing what they can to see that it’s not privatised.
On a whim I veered off to the old prison gardens. I knew they were there, slightly obscured down a slope and behind some trees, but I hadn’t seen them at close quarters.
Turns out some community-minded locals have claimed the abandoned site as the Mt Crawford Community Garden. I didn’t see anyone else during my poke around, and save for a couple of veggie mounds there isn’t much sign of gardening in progress.
The old greenhouse and sheds show their age, though the greenhouse roof has been repaired in recent times. Everywhere you turn nature is taking over what was once an immaculate garden. This is a fantastic photo from 1950.
In 2007, gardening duties provided an opportunity for an inmate (an axe murderer no less) to escape. We were living in Miramar at the time but only became aware of it after he was recaptured.
I followed paths to other spaces and to lower levels of the garden, before emerging into a landscaped clearing. Here was a sculpture that seemed to be some kind of wishing tree; an arty inclusion in this community project.
I’m not a gardener at the best of times so am very unlikely to get involved in these gardens, but it’s a great reuse of the site.
Whatever the future holds for the prison land, I hope some of it is retained as a reserve and that we’ll be able to continue using the through-road. In any case, I’m glad I’ve been able to see these traces of history before they disappear.