October 26, 2011
For lovely Naomi’s birthday we took a trip to the Forest Farm Peace Garden on Hazelbrouck Gardens in Hainault – so far East London that it’s technically Essex. The nine mile cycle to get there from Hackney quickly turned in to fifteen after getting lost a dozen times – but we did find a nice apple tree on the way, somewhere inside the Roding Valley.
This garden, built on an abandoned site is sumptuous – part allotment, part community garden with an eclectic mix of users (and hence an eclectic range of crops) – it is also deceptively large and feels self-contained somehow – as if you could spend days here and always have something to do. Don’t be put off by their website (or lack of) – it’s a truly inspiring (and beautiful) place.
When we visited, on an apocalyptic grey Sunday in October, the garden was open for the Abundance Open Day. An enormous apple harvest had produced the most delicious, dark brown, thick apple nectar I have ever tasted and was being sold for next to nothing along with piles of the apples themselves, chutneys, pumpkin curry, potato stew and clear East London honey, courtesy of Andy Casson who keeps bees on the site.
The open days are held fairly regularly so keep an eye on the website or join the mailing list to be kept informed.
May 6, 2011
The residential barges that make up the floating Garden Barge Square are moored at Downings Roads Moorings, Reeds Wharf – east of Tower Bridge on the South side of the Thames. These 200 year old moorings were very nearly the victims of closure at the hands of Southwark Council (who deemed the set-up an “eyesore”) a few years ago, but a successful campaign and cross-party support have enabled them to overthrow the eviction notice and stay put.
Which is a great thing, because as well as being a floating garden, the moorings house over seventy people, including several families with children, businesses and artist studios. The gardens themselves are built onto the roofs of the converted barges, which have been topped with huge metal trays and then filled with a thick layer of soil, the barges then joined together by a series of bridges and walkways. Self-seeded wildflowers first sprung up on the barges in the mid 1980s and provided the inspiration for the further planting up of the floating gardens. The rooftops are now home to an abundance of herbs and flowers, a quince tree, Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Fresia’, Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, ferns and an apple tree. Evergreen and silver-leafed plants such as lavender and Stipa tenacissima are particularly well adapted to the dry and windy air of the Thames.
As well as contributing to the character of the historic wharf it occupies, Garden Barge Square provides a habitat and shelter for Thames water birds and river fish, and maintains sustainable standards through its numerous Ecological Initiatives.
Sadly for us (it is a private residence, after all), Garden Barge Square is not open to the public for much of the year, but can be viewed from the wharfs. The Gardens are open for public visits once a year, however, as part of the Open Garden Squares Weekend, which takes place on the 11th and 12th of June.