Blood, sweat, tears

THEY are volunteers who lovingly tend the gardens at Wingham Train Station.

Liz Cross and Lyn McKinlay with the remains of one of the Jacaranda trees at Wingham  Railway Station

Liz Cross and Lyn McKinlay with the remains of one of the Jacaranda trees at Wingham Railway Station

A reminder plaque on the railway station wall

A reminder plaque on the railway station wall

Lyn McKinlay and Liz Cross have been putting their blood, sweat and tears into the gardens for more than three years and have transformed them from an overgrown mess.

Shaped by the mature elegance of jacarandas, Lyn and Liz have planned the gardens around these natural landmarks.

But recently a contractor for NSW TrainLink came and chopped down the three sweeping jacarandas and plunged the carefully chosen under plants into full sun. The visual impact without the trees is significant and Lyn and Liz are devastated. 

Unfortunately neither Lyn or Liz or even Wingham Advancement Group (WAG) that oversees the garden project were consulted first and it came as a huge shock.

According to a NSW TrainLink spokesperson staff received several complaints that the jacarandas were dropping flowers onto the station entrance ramp, creating a safety issue for customers and staff. In addition, the tree's roots were causing damage to the car park and the trees were growing onto the main running line. 

Lyn and Liz aren't so sure the situation was so drastic.

They said they knew the tree nearest the ramp was a potential issue but as for the others, they simply appeared to be healthy and beautiful. One of them in fact Liz had nursed back to health after it was infested with a vine that threatened to choke it. The trees offered shade to passengers waiting on the platform as well as to Liz and Lyn as they tended the gardens in the heat of the day. 

"It is very disappointing that NSW Trains removed these trees without consulting the community group and ladies that nurture and improve these gardens," said Allen Valentine, president of WAG.

"Unilateral action such as this is very debilitating for volunteers that contribute their time, energy and enthusiasm to improving the ambience and surrounds of Wingham Railway Station. Indeed, it is dispiriting for all community volunteers anywhere when an organisation acts to undo or degrade or diminish the efforts of volunteers who are intimately involved with a project without any consultation or discussion - before action is taken."

Lyn and Liz said they have since met with a representative of NSW TrainLink after lodging their complaint at Taree Train Station.

They found him to be very amenable and he has promised to send through a list of approved trees suitable for use at the train station.

It will be many years of course before they offer the same level of shade as the mature jacarandas but Lyn and Liz are grateful that they will at least be able to grow trees at all.

The enthusiastic pair have been the driving force of the train station project, helped along by other WAG volunteers and the generous donations of plants by friends.

They have planted hundreds of plants at the station, many coming from their own gardens to improve what they consider the first thing visitors see when arriving in Wingham by train. 

What has been equally upsetting for Lyn and Liz is that locals have been confronting them to ask why they chopped them down. "It wasn't us, we tell them," said Liz, "we thought they were beautiful."