Betty Lloyd reckons she doesn’t know where her land ends and Byron Council property begins.
“I just garden,” she said, looking round at the lush trees, plants and lawn stretching out from her Ocean Shores property as far as the eye can see.
For Betty lives next to a park, Carramar Park – though no one except locals would know either of its existence or of its name, for there is no sign to let anyone know it is actually 11 hectares of parkland with magnificent sea views at the top and a creek along one side.
And undoubtedly no one would ever be able to enjoy the park if it wasn’t for the work that Betty and some of her neighbours have put in over the years.
Betty moved from Melbourne to the steep block in Ocean Shores more than 20 years ago - her artistic eye on the site’s potential for a flat house block with terraced gardens falling down the slope.
But next door was one of the town’s four designated parks – parks that the council has neither the staff nor the money to maintain beyond the absolute basics.
“I can’t stand walking through knee-deep grass,” she said, so at first she joined in with some of the neighbours for regular lawn mower sessions.
Next there was the problem of the fire trail to tackle, an almost unusable path due to deep ruts caused by water run-off.
“I became the scourge of people putting in driveways,” she chuckled, “because whenever I saw the excavated soil I was always knocking on their doors to ask if they needed it, and if they didn’t I grabbed it and filled in all the ruts.
“I’ve virtually stopped erosion on the fire trail,” she said proudly.
After that there was the slope that at some point stopped being her land and began being Carramar Park, but which regardless of ownership was a wilderness of weeds.
She dug up ‘every rock’ from the park’s flat section and carried them down the slope to secure the terraces and border the gardens which she then began planting out thickly, and mulching, to deter weeds springing back up.
And through all the gardens Betty has laid little stone paths that meander up and down, inviting a pleasant wander to anyone lucky enough to chance upon it.
Over the years of passionate gardening, Betty has noticed a couple of changes to the landscape that have really thrilled her.
The first is that the animals are back, and on her early morning rounds she will often chance upon a family of quails – mum and seven little babies, as well as echidnas, water dragons and russet pheasants, not to mention the butcher birds that have taken up residence on the chairs on the front veranda and that don’t bat an eyelid when anyone comes past.
And the second is that a real eco-system has built up, with gradually the environment going back to the rainforest, tree ferns and birds nest ferns springing up of their own accord.
Although Betty has planted exotics as well as natives, nothing survives that is not meant to in the light of her firm ‘not water’ policy.
Betty is emphatic that the park is not her work alone, as many others, particularly earlier on in the 1990s, contributed to plantings and upkeep, and she is full of praise for the council workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to do ‘a wonderful job’.
Yet there is no doubt that the peace and the beauty of the land surrounding her house is largely due to her vision and hard work, all the more remarkable given the fact that she is about to celebrate her 80th birthday.
And gardening most days, is something Betty plans to keep doing for a very long time, and most days see her up at 6am to potter about outside.
“I’ll never stop gardening,” she said.
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