Home and Garden
Heritage fruit trees in need of a prune pepper a road-front section on the edge of Blenheim, including a persimmon tree heaving with fruit.
Beyond, there's a small memorial, then a long wide paddock bordered with old walnut trees, stretching to Middle Renwick Rd.
It's the kind of land to make a property developer's eyes water, but the generosity of an elderly woman means Blenheim's latest and literal Greenfields development will sprout trees instead of houses.
The community is being called to action in Springlands this weekend to help plant 14 native trees and 1000 shrubs at Sheps Park, a 2 1/2-hectare block of prime Severne St real estate bequeathed to the region by the late Joy Shepard in 2005.
The land has been owned by the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust and managed by the Marlborough District Council since mid-2007, but progress on its initial $100,000 development had been stalled by tight finances.
A few weeks ago the council accepted an offer from Arborbank, a funding agency for planting trees in Marlborough, to provide $5000 of funding for trees to get the project rolling.
Council's Reserves and Amenities manager Rosie Bartlett says the group had long offered to help with the planting, "so we sat down and put our heads together and decided to stage it".
Areas that won't be impacted by future developments and don't require infrastructure work will be planted in natives this weekend.
"It's a great partnership," says Ms Bartlett. The council will then stage develop the rest of the park, with ongoing help from Arborbank, based on a landscape plan by Christchurch landscape architect Craig Pocock, of Pocock Design Environment.
Mr Pocock, whose has worked in design and project management in Jordan, Palestine, India and New York, has more recently been focused on earthquake recovery plans in his home town of Christchurch.
"We tend to get the difficult projects and Sheps Park had a few challengers early on," he says.
Working in Blenheim is easier than tackling design at the Dead Sea, but he says the basis of all his designs is in listening to what people want.
During consultations on Sheps Park he had people driving from as far away as Canvastown to have their say, as well as high interest from sports groups, neighbours and the wider community.
The final plan, after repeated consultations and tweaks, is for a park that reflects New Zealand, rather than a traditional English park.
It will have areas of meadow, existing fruit trees and native plantings, as well as a "unique" playground focused on children engaging and playing with the environment.
Mrs Shepard lived on the land with her husband, Lloyd, who survived being shot in the head during World War II and died in 1992.
The couple had no children, and before she died Mrs Shepard had considered the use of the space, specified the name and had spoken to a lawyer about what she wanted it to become.
Mr Pocock says, as well as listening to the community, he was mindful of her vision. "I see myself more as a scribe. I draw out what people are describing they want to see in the park."
PLANTING AT THE PARK
The planting day at Sheps Park starts at 10am on Sunday, June 17.
It is intended to be a fun family day, with Mr Whippy, a sausage sizzle and hopefully a coffee cart.
Bring a spade if you can.
If the weather is wet, the planting day will be next weekend instead
ARBORBANK INVESTS MONEY IN TREES
Wielding scythes, spades and secateurs, they're not your average bank managers, but the team behind Arborbank are certainly investing in Marlborough's future.
When Richard Macfarlane, Tim Crawford, Dave Robinson, Puddy Sheild, Carolyn Ferraby, Keren Mitchell and Jeremy Jones passed on the reins of Hunter's Garden Marlborough in 2004, after 10 years of running the event, they were stepping up on not stepping out of planting the province.
They invested about $100,000, accrued through the festival's cocktail parties and charity auctions, to create Arborbank, an incorporated society which supplies grants throughout the region, to make it "greener one tree at a time".
Mr Crawford says there was a lot of pressure on the group to hand over the money when they handed over control of Garden Marlborough, but they were determined to use it as intended.
"They are not the profits of Garden Marlborough. It was money that was always intended for planting trees in Marlborough."
Since then, Arborbank's grants have gone to a number of organisations, including every school in Marlborough for shade trees, as well as individual planting projects at Fairhall, Witherlea and Bohally schools, and Mayfield Kindergarten and wetland restoration work in Tua Marina.
Committee chairwoman Keren Mitchell says it's been an amazing journey based on a simple premise. "Ralph Ballinger, who was the first chairman of Hunter's Garden Marlborough, always said Marlborough is like one big garden. We are really encouraging the community to build on that idea."
Gardening guru Puddy Sheild says the Sheps Park project is very exciting for the group. "We can really put our mark on this land and these trees will be here for future generations."
CREATING A HERITAGE PARK
Arborbank chairwoman Keren Mitchell describes Mr Pocock as a "visionary" and applauds the Marlborough District Council for calling him in.
His design is a modern idea of making areas user friendly for children and adults, she says.
"There will be humps and hollows out here, and kids can pump water. It's a playground for the imagination."
She hopes the community, so vocal in what should happen to the park, will rally to get it planted this weekend.
"We hope this Sunday will be an old-fashioned Kiwi event of yesteryear, where families and friends come together to work on a community project, encouraging ownership and pride."
- The Marlborough Express