From dead spaces to hiking lanes

Liz Knight in Thornhill Park, one of six parks maintained by the gardeners and EPWP.

In 2017 Green Point resident Liz Knight started a community-based project, Friends of Green Point, that has transformed the stairwells and gardens in the neighbourhood on the slopes of Signal Hill.

The plan was simple: to transform neglected features into beautiful, safe and well maintained spaces, and five years later Ms Knight is still spearheading the mission.

“I was never a gardener, but I recognised the need to keep our neighbourhood clean and to make it beautiful. It’s an ongoing venture and I’ve hired gardeners, Gilbert and Shaun, to do the gardening. We get financial assistance from some neighbours and the City of Cape Town also does their part to maintain our parks and lanes, and it’s working well. A friend that started (Friends of Green Point) with me said she didn’t think it would work, but here we are,” said the 72-year old Ms Knight.

There are 25 stairwells, or lanes, as Ms Knight refers to the pedestrian walkways leading to MyCiTi bus stations, and six parks that the Friends of Green Point maintain on a regular basis.

“I’ve been doing this for two years now,” said Gilbert Gwayi who attends to the gardens twice a week. “It’s tough walking up and down stairs but its part of the job. I’m pleased with what I see and the residents often compliment me so I really enjoy keeping the place clean.”

Gilbert Gwayi on the far right with members of the EPWP that maintain the gardens and stairwells.

Shaun Garth-Davis started working in Green Point with the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), a Western Cape government programme that gives temporary jobs to the unemployed, but when his contract ended Ms Knight asked him to stay on board.

“It was strenuous at first but I got used to it,” said the 48-year old gardener. “I’m happy to be part of this project. Liz asked me to come on board about four months ago and I thoroughly enjoy gardening so I could not say no to her. The residents are appreciative of what we do and I can see the changes we (gardeners) are making.”

After the hard lockdown last year, Ms Knight reached out to friends and neighbours to start hiking in Green Point and over the last 10 months more have joined her latest initiative aptly named: Hiking the Lanes.

Some of the women who take part in the Hiking the Lanes initiative.

“We are keeping fit, as you know there’s plenty of stairs so it’s up and down. We are getting to know each other and we also act as eyes and ears of our neighbourhood, we learning about this neighbourhood and it’s beneficial to us in many ways, there’s one or two guys, but mostly women,” Ms Knight said.

“It’s a great workout and we get our hear rates right up. The extra bonus is meeting neighbours and hearing some of their stories about life in Green Point. I have learnt about their business and they have asked about mine which gives me an opportunity to promote my bacon and egg croissants,” said 42-year old Michaelle Goodes who manages a breakfast stall at the farmers market in Granger Bay.

“Beyond a good stiff hour’s exertion up and down our famous Green Point steps and slopes at least twice a week, we’ve gotten to know our neighbours, made friends, created a regular presence in these public spaces and generally, come to know, love and appreciate our neighbourhood better. I’d venture to say that our regular presence promotes safety, security and definitely strengthens our sense of community,” said 59-year old Anahid Harrison, owner of the Derwent House Boutique Hotel.

Thornhill Park before Friends of Green Point added to it’s beauty.