North East Connected

Residents unveil new community garden artwork

Insect invasions can be the bane of a gardener’s life, but the arrival of a giant bug in a newly completed community garden has been greeted with delight by residents.

Blacksmith and sculptor, Graeme Hopper, invited schoolchildren from nearby Carrhill Primary School and community garden designer, and Kingston Road resident, Alfie Elrington, to unveil the new artwork that sits as the centrepiece of Chelsea Gardens.

Commissioned by Northumbrian Water and Home Group, Graeme worked with the schoolchildren to design the winged insect, to give the final flourish to the patch of former derelict land that has been turned into an attractive community benefit.

Ideas ranged from bee-butterfly hybrids to lazy ladybugs which all contributed to Graeme’s final design for what he describes as an “emerging water creature”.

The garden is the brainchild of Northumbrian Water’s project manager, Mike Ciaraldi, and Home Group strategic neighbourhood coordinator, Kathryn Forte, as a thank you for residents’ patience and support during work which had been carried out to improve drainage in the area. 

Graeme said: “It’s great to be able to share this moment with all the people who have played such an important role creating this attractive open space, which can now be enjoyed by the whole community.

“Spending an afternoon working with the kids at Carrhill was inspirational and I have used as many elements of their designs as possible in the creation of this winged insect, which will hopefully form the garden’s focal point for years to come.” 

A competition was launched at the beginning the year giving the locals an opportunity to come up with a design for the community garden, which was won by Alfie Elrington, 76. Since then, Alfie has spearheaded the project from the beginning and was proud to unveil the finished article.

He said: “It looks great. The whole thing has improved the look of the street and I love the sculpture as the centerpiece. I’m very proud to have been part of it.”

Alfie’s design included surfaces that allow water to soak into them and grassed channels to temporarily store and drain surface water, known as swales.

Mike Ciaraldi said: “It is exciting to finally unveil a project that everybody in the community has contributed so much to. It will hopefully be something that the whole community is proud of and a reminder of how important teamwork and community spirit is when it comes to improvement projects like this one.”

Everyone in nearby areas has been invited to use and enjoy the new community garden.

Kathryn and Mike served a mini blacksmith apprenticeship with Graeme, creating some of the fronds on the sculpture.

Kathryn said: “It was fantastic to see the faces of the kids from Carrhill Primary School and those of the local residents who played such an important role in seeing this project to fruition, now that the sculpture is finished and in place.

Dave Fontana, of Glendale Services, who completed groundwork on the project, said: “It’s great to have been part of a project like this – hopefully it will benefit the community for generations.”

Teacher, Heather McClean, said: “All of the children have had fun spotting the parts they contributed to the final design and it’s lovely to think that they will always recognise this artwork as something they helped to create.”

For more information on Northumbrian Water and their community projects visit

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