June 10, 2013

Community Gardens in Brussels

I didn’t see a community garden anywhere during my first year in Brussels (except this one, in a pretty distant and suburb-like part of the city).  Having moved here from New York, where you can find them pretty readily in many neighborhoods, I was continually surprised at this.   

But they do exist.

The first glimmer of hope I had was when my wife and I discovered Carre Tillens in late August, 2012.  Carre is French for square, and in this case the square was hidden from the street.  You have to walk down a small alley to reach it, and once you’re there, it opens up to a park space with a community garden inside.  The square is hidden behind buildings, but open to the public.

While there, we had a conversation with a man who was strolling around.  He gave us a little history, saying that the space had at one point been sold as developable space, but that local residents fought to keep it as a green space and won.  Given that the square is directly on the border between the communes of Uccle and Forest, the town halls of both communes had to be involved.  The politics must have been interesting, to say the least.  Reading the website (translated from French) suggests that there is much more history to the space as well, providing even more significance to the community win in preserving it.

The moral of the story is that just because community gardens are not always visible, does not mean that they aren’t there.  Through conversations i’ve had since, it turns out that there are many more to be discovered.  Brussels seems to have a knack for creating hidden spaces at times, which makes it hard to find things, but even more exciting once you do find them.

Resources for finding gardens are also improving.  If you live in Brussels and don’t want to leave the discovery of gardens to chance, check out  the website Les Potagers Urbains, which has listings and a map of gardens.  

Either way, I still recommend venturing down small streets and alleys. You never know what you may find.

Pictures above are displayed in reverse order, first showing the garden, then the alley, then the street view where the alley entrance can be found.  Photos taken August, 2012.

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