Secret garden created in Charles Avenue

Tracy Watkins, who set up Charles Avenue Resident Engagement, front left, with the team of volunteers. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks170914-1
Tracy Watkins, who set up Charles Avenue Resident Engagement, front left, with the team of volunteers. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks170914-1

A secret garden is being created in Charles Avenue in memory of a former resident.

The Charles Avenue Resident Engagement (CARE) group has been working hard to clear an area that had become a dumping ground.

Digging out the soil and debris in preparation for the memorial garden ks170914-2

Digging out the soil and debris in preparation for the memorial garden ks170914-2

The plan is to turn it into a garden with raised flower beds, a herb patch, flower pots and a nature corner.

Included are features personal to Matt Vergo, who died at home on March 14 this year, at the age of 28.

He had only just found out his girlfriend Samantha Thomson, 24, was pregnant but had been able to see the baby’s heartbeat at an early scan, which had been given due to a bout of food poisoning.

Samantha said no cause of death had been found and it was likely to be finalised as sudden adult death syndrome.

“He didn’t drink or smoke or do drugs,” she said.

“They have done tests and come up with nothing. Adult cot death doesn’t give you a valid reason.

“Matt enjoyed gardening and people will be able to come to the garden to think.”

Matt was a vibrant member of CARE and will be remembered through the garden, with purple features to represent his favourite colour and red and white to represent his football team, Manchester United.

Tracy Watkins, who set up CARE two years ago, said: “Matt was on the committee and our CARE members are very important to us so we wanted to do this for him.

“It is also to get the community together to stop people dumping stuff, discourage drug use and protect those that back on to the garden.”

The area was originally a play park, with access from four directions along fenced pathways. CARE, working with Affinity Sutton and West Sussex County Council, wants to close off three of those paths, so there is only one access, to help with security.

Tracy said: “The play equipment became damaged over the years then it was taken down because two new ones were put in.

“It literally became a dumping ground, full of sofas and broken toys.

“We decided to make it one of CARE’s projects and get the community together. We thought we would turn it into a garden and make a good thing out of a wasted bit of ground.”

Representatives from the housing association and councils worked with residents on Friday to clear debris, including thick mud and rocks, from the area.

Tracy hopes to involve The Aldingbourne Trust in the planting and The Apuldram Centre in the upkeep of the garden, since some of the members live on the estate.

CARE is also working closely with the community warden from Chichester District Council to improve the area, with regular monthly meetings to discuss progress.

Tracy, who has lived in Charles Avenue for 12 years, said: “We are sick and tired of the bad reputation we have had over the years. Since we started the group, things have improved and people are starting to engage.

“We are trying to make little improvements everywhere and by seeing we are achieving what we have planned and said we would do, it makes a big difference.”

The second CARE fun day is planned for July 29. Visit the CARE Facebook page for more information.