Posts tagged ‘local’

August 23, 2011

Secret London Garden #7: Wilton Estate Orchard, Wilton Way

by growingpeople

The  longer I do this urban food growing thing, the more I find going on. Which makes sense obviously, but I never cease to be amazed by the range and scale of the projects that communities are setting up. The Wilton Estate Orchard (which also includes a sizeable vegetable garden) comprises 7 types of apple, pear and plum trees and is the result of  a collaboration between the Wilton Estate Tenants and Residents Association (WETRA), Hackney Homes and the London Orchard Project. This fairly recent charity, founded in 2009, partners up with local authorities and community groups, helping residents set up orchards as well as providing the training they need to maintain and harvest them – their website informs us that in the past London was full of orchards: hospitals, universities, prisons and other institutions each had their own, meeting all their fruit needs.

The orchard is located on an unlikely bit of green space running along the corner of Forest Road and Greenwood Road.  What’s nice is that there’s nothing very secret about it at all, it’s right there, opposite the rather good pub and the Costcutter, and yet I bet most people who walk past it daily don’t realise what it is. Heading into the estate you’ll find the slightly more secretive and very lovely vegetable garden which is maintained by the young residents.

July 22, 2011

Secret London Garden #5: The King’s Cross Skip Garden, Pancras Road

by growingpeople

“After the Olympic Park, this is the biggest building site in London”, says Paul Richens, the King’s Cross Skip Garden‘s enthusiastic and wonderfully knowledgeable gardener who shows me around – which is what makes the choice of location for this growing space so remarkable. The garden is located right inside the Kings Cross Central development, home to Eurostar, the new underground station, the nearly-finished University of the Arts campus and future-home to dozens of new office buildings and flats, the whole lot scheduled for completion by 2020. It is, as the name suggests, entirely constructed in a series of recycled skips, and designed to be a travelling garden, hoisted up and moved to new sites around the development as building work progresses.

Building work is in fact due to start at the garden’s current location on Pancras Road in the coming weeks, and it will shortly be re-housed at the other end of the building site on York Way. It will be interesting to see how its new location changes the feel of the space, which is heavily influenced by the juxtaposition of the station’s Gothic architecture, the Eurostar terminal’s metal and glass cladding, and the rubble of the building site, all visible from the garden and defining its very nature. With another 8 years to go before the site’s completion, there’s a real question mark over how, and more specifically, where, this garden may go next and what that will mean for its development and preservation.

Paul explains the garden’s design to me: each skip represents an element of a full-blown garden, so there is a poly-tunnel skip, an orchard skip, a root skip and so on, all powered by what he’s called the Green Engine – the skip housing an impressive wormery and huge tufts of Bocking 14 Comfrey, the organic gardener’s secret weapon when it comes to mulching and nourishing the earth. The skips aren’t just filled with earth, but instead contain wooden beds and a set of stairs down the centre of each one, so that the student gardeners who come along to help Paul maintain the site have easy access to all areas of the growing space.  Educational workshops and talks take place in the garden’s “bio-dome”, the cosy tent space at the rear of the garden.

each skip contains one ton of soil, arranged in beds and accessed through a set of stairs

(left) Paul at work (right) the Green Engine

(left) the Orchard skip (right) the Eurostar terminal overshadows the garden

(left) tumbling alpine strawberries mark their territory (right) the view from the educational tent

The project is an initiative of Global Generation, an award-winning organisation that provides young people with opportunities to get involved in environmental and sustainable projects, under the themes of “I, We and the Planet”, and has been heavily supported by the Guardian, Camden Council, Capital Growth and Big Lottery.

June 15, 2011

Feasting

by growingpeople

We’ve spent the last three weeks in Morocco, where Safi met her huge extended family for the first time and we gorged on tajine, watermelon, almonds, bekkoula, oranges and pots of mint tea.

I was familiar with the Atlas region and the arid south – Marrakech, Essaouira and Agadir, where the landscape is dotted with the endemic Argan (Argania spinosa) tree – cultivated for oil and home to armies of climbing goats – but this time we stayed mainly along the Atlantic coast in the north of the country –  an incredibly productive area, rich in crops as varied as peanuts, bananas, potatoes and purslane, not to mention a range of non-cultivated edibles which grow freely in the wild.

One of my favourite things to do (anywhere) is to explore markets, and here both my eyes and belly were truly spoiled – the frenzy of colour and the abundance of produce (all local, very little needs to be imported) were a veritable feast before even getting anywhere near my plate.

Supermarkets and convenience stores are very slowly creeping into the suburbs of bigger cities like Rabat, Casablanca and Kenitra, but on the whole the Moroccan respect for good food, properly produced and with nothing going to waste means that the daily trip to the market (souk) remains an intrinsic part of family life, particularly in the smaller towns of the north which are fed by such fertile land.

(above) Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) grows freely as an urban weed but it is also cultivated and sold as the principle ingredient for rejla, purslane stewed in olive oil and flavoured with cumin and ginger.

(above) marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) leaves are used for making bekkoula – similar to rejla in preparation but with a more acidic taste. We bought shredded and boiled marshmallow leaves from the huge tubs that ladies brought to the market and added oil and spices to them at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(left) purple bindweed (Ipomoea), a close relative of the sweet potato (Ipomoea batata) and (right) oranges growing happily in Tangier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(left) limes growing in Larache and (right) the barbary fig, or prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) grows widely throughout the country, producing a sweet, bright red fruit after its yellow flowers.

(below left) mint grows everywhere and is combined with green tea and sugar to make the Moroccan staple, thé a la menthe. (below right) bananas ripening in a Casablanca car park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 1, 2011

Secret London garden #3: St. Mary’s Secret Garden, Pearson Street

by growingpeople

It’s very difficult to photograph St. Mary’s Secret Garden in a way that gives an accurate representation of what this place is all about. Sensory garden, herbaceous border, fruit trees, vegetables and woodland all meet here to create this unique horticultural project which serves as both community space (local residents have keys) and therapeutic garden, welcoming adults with mental health issues, terminal illness, and physical and learning disabilities to help maintain the site. Tucked away behind the Hoxton end of Kingsland Road, this is another of those beautifully still spaces in which it’s easy to forget that you are minutes from the creeping traffic of Old Street and Hackney Road.

The sheer quantity of the planting here is overwhelming – and the garden’s layout so full of curves and hidden pockets – which is why my photographs cannot begin to do the space justice. However much time I spend here, I will continue to be surprised by previously unnoticed little chunks of space (or a sink, suitcase or walking boot) with something fantastic growing in it. The garden offers a full program of courses and events, and is reliant on the work of its volunteers.

(above) A re-imagined chest of drawers, a boot, a toilet (or three), a washing machine drum and a baby’s car seat all serve as planters at St. Mary’s Secret Garden.


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May 5, 2011

Foraging for food in Lower Clapton

by growingpeople

Back in January, I discussed the virtues of the Silverberry, or Elaeagnus x ebbingei, one of the only berries I know of which is ripe in the early spring. The one I walk past every day grows within the gardens of a residential care home, and  is now fruiting heavily. So this afternoon, after weeks of waiting for the berries to ripen, we went and picked a bucketful.

I’d been on the look out for suggestions of what to do with the berries for ages, but the only thing anyone seems to be doing with them is making jam. Until I came across this recipe on the fantastic Gardenbytes, (the owners of which “explore everything from foraging to formal gardens” in NYC) where the bright red berries are blended to a pulp (use a hand moulis with large holes so that the seeds are left behind) and baked into bread. You can also try these as a coulis, sweetened with honey.

Many thanks to the staff of the Median Road Resource Centre for letting me come into the gardens and strip the bushes bare!

April 13, 2011

Holiday ideas for kids (free and local!)

by growingpeople

Stuck for ideas on what to do with your kids this Easter?

Aside from the usual egg-decorating and treasure hunts going on around the capital this Easter holiday, there are several more unusual activities taking place that have me wishing I were a little bit younger or that my 6-month old were just a  little bit older…

The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden opened last year but seems to have blossomed this year into something truly remarkable. Sandwiched between the new Dalston Junction Overground station and the Kingsland Shopping Centre, it’s a little oasis of greenery in an otherwise decidedly urban area of Hackney. The volunteer gardening sessions take place every Saturday morning, but over the Easter holidays, the garden is putting on a huge range of free activities and workshops for children aged 5 to 12, including Scarecrow-making, poetry, garden den design and how to make “little windmills to help keep the birds away from all our new vegetable seedlings”. I’m so curious about that last one.

Tucked alongside the London Overground railway line, meters from Shoreditch High street on the Hackney and City of London borders, Spitalfields City Farm is another pocket of paradise in the city.  The farm’s Easter Play scheme runs from the 18th -21st April for kids aged 8 to 13 and includes gardening, horse riding, feeding and caring for the farm’s many animals, plus an offsite visit to the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. See here for the full details and timetable.

The Geffrye Museum on Kingsland Road is running several workshops including Turkish Tapestry weaving, Tea-leaf reading, and storytelling for children aged 3 to 5, 5 to 8, 8 and above and 11 and above. See here for full details.

Kentish Town City Farm is welcoming children aged 8 and above to muck in and help out at the farm over the Easter holidays.  There are also a few very reasonably priced workshops (£4 maximum), including pottery-making, singing and art for under 5s and the opportunity to help build a working clay oven for the farm.

The Museum of London is running Victorian Pharmacy workshops in which kids can explore the herbs and spices used in Victorian medicine, as well as design and make their own herbal cabinet to take home. Sessions are running for 12.30 to 2.30 on the 19th, 20th and 21st of April.

January 19, 2011

Cooking Weeds

by growingpeople

I’ve just discovered Vivien Weise’s excellent Cooking Weeds, a cookbook dedicated to, as the name suggests, using the abundance of edible native weeds available to us for free in a variety of imaginative and often mouthwatering recipes.  She only includes common weeds that can be found in any London park or tow path, and clearly describes which weeds (and which parts) are edible, as well as including nutritional information for each plant. Plus, they are all illustrated to facilitate your picking efforts.

November 12, 2010

Starters

by growingpeople

I recently heard about a project going on in Todmorden in West Yorkshire, where the residents have been using every possible bit of the town’s vacant public spaces to grow food.

Incredible Edible Todmorden is an inspiring example of what can happen when a community comes together and proves that not having a garden doesn’t have to stop you from setting up a patch (or several!). Residents have been growing food on the sides of roads, at the train station, under the railway bridge, in a supermarket car park (but don’t tell the Lidl bosses), outside the police station, at a housing estate and even in the town’s graveyard! They’ve put together this interactive map which shows the full scale of their planting. And what scale! 500 (count them) fruit trees from apples and plums to morello cherries in a town of just 10,000 people.

November 2, 2010

Railroads and Radishes

by growingpeople

The train I used to take on my commute from Stratford to Liverpool Street is raised significantly from ground level, and from it you have a wonderful view of London’s potential. Overgrown and abandoned back gardens filter past, beneath hundreds of concrete balconies piled together like teetering jenga blocks, and metal fences guard empty space, grey and desolate but for a pile of wooden palettes. Watching this scene from the train window, I used to mentally add up all the little squares of concrete and disused gardens like an jigsaw puzzle, and imagine the resulting urban patchwork of “land” as acres and acres of useable growing space.

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