There’s a little piece of paradise in Melrose that has played host to weddings, parties, celebrations of life, and greeted tourists and locals alike for the past two decades.
But behind the aptly named Paradise Square, two dedicated locals – Yvonne and Don Bishop – have been carefully tending to the garden, maintaining it and keeping it neat and tidy.
Yvonne and Don have been volunteering their time to the square for 21 years.
Every Friday they are there, mowing the lawns and on any other given day during the week you may also find them busily working away, edging the lawns, weeding, pruning or planting.
The couple originally became involved when friend Shirley McCallum (Freer) was on council and a local lad won a competition, enabling a gazebo to be erected in the town.
“We thought a gazebo in the middle of nothing but barley grass and wild oats would look terrible, so Shirley asked if I’d help her develop it,” Yvonne said.
These days, meticulously maintained lawns are framed by agapanthus, geraniums and brightly coloured gazanias surrounding the gazebo.
“We’ve planted anything that’s hardy and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance,” Yvonne said. “My aim is that if I have to ever give up this job, it will be easy for someone else to maintain.”
It has been a team effort over the years, with Don at Yvonne’s side, assisting with the garden each week.
“Don always says to people ‘I’m not the brains, I’m only the person that comes in and does the work’, but I always say I wouldn’t be able to do it without him there carting the rubbish and doing all those jobs.”
At 85, Yvonne said volunteering doing the garden kept her and Don, aged 83, fit in body and mind and having had a beautiful, big garden on their farm before moving into town, it also enabled them to continue their interests.
“It definitely keeps you fit,” Yvonne said.
“I always find that if I feel miserable and I go out in the garden for an hour, I come in feeling like a different person.”
Yvonne said she and Don enjoyed volunteering and found it rewarding to hear feedback from those who had enjoyed their little ‘piece of paradise’ in Melrose.
“I love to see the garden and the lawns looking nice,” she said.
“You only have to watch people walk through, enjoying the square and it gives me a lot of pleasure to see them enjoying the garden.
“We have a visitors’ book there now too and that is amazing to read some of the comments of people who appreciate the park.
“Don and I were only talking the other day, that it really doesn’t seem like 21 years we’ve been doing this, time skips by when you enjoy what you’re doing.
“Volunteers are the backbone of any town, there’s a lot of people that work silently in towns and volunteer in many different ways, and this is just one thing we enjoy doing here.”