One of the things that we will be reviewing the London Plan for is Biodiversity and ensuring that we have access to beautiful green spaces, and that planning policy gives our pollinators the best chance:
Small change brings a bigger change
“It was very calming and good to work as a group and to do something nice for the community”- volunteer
One of the five ways to wellbeing is to “connect” – with other people and with the nature that’s around us. And yet we know that 75% of young Londoners are not connected to nature (RSPB). The 2011 LSDC Sowing the Seeds report also mapped out the city farms, adventure playgrounds, nature play areas, green school grounds, and outdoor learning programmes. However even when all these initiatives were added up, they reached less than 1 in 20 of the capital’s children. Green space in London is being lost at an alarming rate; according to the London: Garden City report; “An area of vegetated garden land equivalent to 21 times the size of Hyde Park was lost between 1998-99 and 2006-08…” Action is needed!
Over the last year LSx was funded by the City Bridge Trust and WREF to deliver “Wandsworth Breathes”. We worked with Providence House, a youth centre with 25 years’ experience providing activities for children and young people, and Battersea Flower Station, a local garden centre.
Beside Providence House there is a large walkway, which was in a poor state; just a place for littering and drinking, but with an existing planter that was untended. Local adults and young volunteers worked with us to transform this under-utilised resource; removing the rubbish, designing how planters and benches could fit in, and then dreaming of what they would like to plant.
And what did we achieve? Now there is a planter built by the young volunteers flourishing with many edible and wildlife friendly perennial plants. Some of the herbs will be used in a café called Platform 1 (run by Camden Society), which enables adults with learning disabilities to learn how to cook. Seating and rubbish bins were also provided so that local people can utilise the space for meeting and relaxing without leaving rubbish behind.
We took inspiration from Permaculture design processes throughout the project, trying to stack functions to ensure maximum benefit and efficient resource use. Worm composts were installed inside Providence House and Platform 1 to utilise the food waste produced at the Café to make fertiliser needed for the planter and so minimising both inputs needed for the garden and the waste going to the landfill. Labels for the plants and compost have been created so that local children can learn about some of the basics of Permaculture.
“It’s always nice to have plants in the community, it adds something different” – local resident
When asked how the garden made them feel during a follow up survey, 91% agreed or strongly agreed that the garden added value to the local community, and 48% were interested to learn more about food growing. This project not only provides opportunities for the local people to enjoy more greenery in their neighbourhood and re-connect with nature, but also for young people to grow their knowledge in gardening and food growing – guided by local experts – which can then be passed on to the next generation of children who will attend Providence House Youth Club in the future.
There are many inspiring projects such as this in London, but there are also many more under-utilised grey spaces which are waiting to be transformed. With some imagination, dedication and spending a bit of time with our hands in the soil, together we can bring a positive change to our neighbourhoods and our society. If you would like support in starting your new green space, please get in touch with us to see if we could assist you.