AN inspirational group who transformed an overgrown wilderness beside a church into a £120k garden oasis have been praised at its official opening.

Social group Lyle Gateway came up with a vision to create a community garden at the heart of the west end and it has finally been realised after years of hard work.

Development worker Derek Mitchell came up with the idea back in 2018 and the project has exceeded all expectations.

Provost Martin Brennan was invited to cut the ribbon on the £123,000 garden, paid for by the National Lottery Community Fund and Awards for All.

He said: "The person who wrote the commentary on the parish website described the previous garden space as 'a little unloved'.

"Whoever the author is, that description is a masterpiece of understatement.

"But when God and man got together with the National Lottery they combined perfectly and utterly transformed the site.

"There really is something spiritual about a garden.

"Work in a garden is totally absorbing and it's an escape from the humdrum worries of daily life.

"Congratulations to all those who had a hand in its transformation."

Other invited guests included Lyle Kirk minister Reverend Jonathan Fleming, councillors Graeme Brooks and Elizabeth Robertson, Allan Maliska, project manager with In-Work who offered horticultural advice and flowers, Marco Rebecchi, who provided architectural services and GES Developments, who project managed the garden's development.

Lyle Gateway chair Jimmy Crawford said: "It is approximately three years since Derek came up with the idea of a garden and no way in this world would I have visualised the transformation from the wilderness we had then to the finished product you see today."

The garden has raised plots that are suitable for children as well as older people.

The Scouts, Boys' Brigade, Lyle Kirk Sunday School and Ardgowan Primary have all been signed up to tend a plot.

Jimmy said: "If the last 18 months has taught us anything, as we worked through Covid-19, it is when you lose your freedom and are not able to meet people, you become lonely.

"We hope this garden will allow people to come and meet one another again.

"We hope that the children and adults alike will come to understand what life is all about, by helping each other through gardening."

Jimmy thanked the Gateway committee, especially treasurer Wilson Evans, plus the National Lottery, church session clerk Ross Finnie and Rev Fleming for helping them to obtain a five-year licence to continue, plus Foundation Scotland and Inverclyde Council for their grant assistance during the pandemic.

Reverend Fleming says he is 'very proud' to be minister to a forward-thinking congregation.

He said: "Having only started here in May, I can take no credit for the work that has gone into this incredible project.

"I believe in a God who gifted us with this wonderful world for us to look after and as we approach the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow, not only do I pray that this garden can be a place of sanctuary for many, but that it can also be a place where we can show how we can be good stewards of his creation."