The Edinburgh Gardens are Melbourne's equivalent of the British village green.
They are a marvellous combination of open space, sportsground, barbecue area, gardens complete with long-established European elm trees, neighbourhood house, skateboard bowl, tennis and basketball courts, ethnic festivals, bandstand, bowling greens and bocce links, remnants of the old Melbourne rail loop, gracious living, living on the poverty line and a magnificent grandstand dating from its days as the home of the mighty Royboys and a small raised rotunda suitable for housing a very large speaker or a very small band. And gazing down it all is an invisible Queen Victoria on her plinth - after all she had granted the land. The plinth is still there but the 1905 wooden statue of Her (very) Highness was swiped some time ago. Maybe it is just as well - I'm not sure what she would make of some of the couples on the grass.
The Edinburgh Gardens are non-judgemental. They've seen it all from struggling depression football teams to trendy feminist parties. From local kids who can't afford socks to wear to handsome African women in full regalia who would knock your socks off.
And dads and mums and kids and geriatric uncles and courting teenagers and spiked haired youths and newly arrived immigrants and old-timers and Macedonian soccer teams and poncing frisbee-throwers in revealing shorts and dedicated training athletes and dogs of doubtful parentage and possums who've been here long before any human settlement and W-class trams rattling by - taking it all for granted - believing that everybody in the world has access to a park like this.
Well they don't. You only need to move a little further into the inner suburbs before you find parks bristling with self-righteous signs like "Passive Use Only!".
The Edinburgh Gardens can be found in St. George's Road North Fitzroy.
For the historically minded:
Queen Victoria provided the grant of land for the gardens and they were laid out in 1865 by Clement Hodgkinson. The original design incorporated an existing creek as well as ponds and billabongs. With the coming of the ill-fated outer circle rail route, a railway line and station were built in the middle of the park. Faint remains can be seen today. The railways sub-let some of the land for commercial use, including a factory producing tin cans known to the locals as "the cannery". Over time, the creek was covered over, the cannery reverted to public parkland and numbers of other changes have occurred.
In recent years, the Brisbane Lions football team have acknowledged their origins from the Fitzroy Football Club by celebrating their premiership victories at the old Brunswick Street Oval that is now part of the Edinburgh Gardens and which was the home ground for the Fitzroy Football Club for 84 years. (You can also find some additional information regarding the history of the gardens in the feedback to our Melbourne Newsletter of 22 April 2007.)