I was lucky enough to find out about this garden when it started up, so have been able to watch it grow over many years.
It started as a few patches of vegetables and over the years volunteers have added greenhouses (one made from recycled bottles), sheds, composting, rain water capture, a willow house, and an undercover area for children to sit. A huge amount of work has gone into expanding the vegetable beds and the fruit trees. There is always something new to see.
The garden quickly became a sanctuary for me – as a mother of young twins it was a safe place with a small climbing frame and swings. Although the swings had to be taken down, the monkey bars and slide still stand. My children love it there. There’s a huge amount of blackberries in the summer, and a little secret garden at the back for adventures.
And over time my children have learned a great deal about gardening. They have joined in with planting seeds, turning over earth, weeding, digging, pruning, cooking over a fire, making and painting signs, cutting back brambles and digging in compost. They can recognise many vegetables and know how to plant seeds, and how to plant out seedlings. Recently they planted their own trees as part of a London project.
Over the years here I learned gardening tips from lots of different people and it has given me the confidence and motivation to try growing new crops myself.
I am sometimes given leaves and vegetables to try. From here I had my first taste of sorrel, jerusalem artichokes, calaloo, and this year the wonderful cucamelons.
The garden runs a charming halloween event, with pumpkin carving, pumpkin soup, and cinnamon apples cooked over a fire. They run other events which are always worth attending (follow them on Facebook for details), and volunteers also collaborate with local schools. People are encouraged to bring compostable waste to leave in the compost bins, if they have no space for one.
My children can see their history in the garden too. There’s a small pond that we dug out from the garden of our house and donated. (My twins were just starting to walk when we moved to Tooting so I didn’t want to take any chances.) We helped plant the willow house, we helped dig out the brambles. There’s a globe artichoke that we donated that seems to still be growing.
We have had many picnics there, and everyone shares their food. My eldest daughter likes helping out, and she enjoys being included when it comes to preparing food. Sometimes someone gets out the fire to make damper bread, or the wood fired tea kettle for a brew. It’s a proper community place.
The future of the garden is uncertain so my advice is to go and see it soon. Look out for special events on their facebook page, or just turn up on a Sunday between 11am and 1pm, pick up a tool and get stuck in.
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