Story by Emily Ballantyne-Brodie, Urban Reforestation's director.
Peter the Garden Volunteer
There was a beautiful garden volunteer called Peter, who took people from the city on tours in his prized community garden. He told them tales about this place, the different characters and its features. Fulham Allotments, has 800 members and 400 allotments. This is one of the largest community gardens around, as well as one of the oldest! In fact this place was created as a part of the "Dig for Victory" campaigns so people during the war were able to feed themselves. Now this place is an OASIS for urban people to escape the noise, hustle and bustle of the city as well as connect to friends and grow their own fresh produce!
A place to connect
One of the first places Peter started his tour was in the social heart of the gardens. As Peter explained..."Many city folk love to connect and have a chat and the Fulham Garden allotments is a place for this to happen". The kitchen, it's outdoor tables and shop are social spaces in the community gardens that provide a base for conviviality! There is also a sophisticated bartering system. So, for instance, if one person has a surplus of parsnips, they can swap their parsnips with a person who a has a surplus of potatos!!
The Man who Liked to Grow Big Vegetables
Peter then took his tour group to 'the man who likes to grow big vegetables' allotment. Wow! They were seriously big! One girl was nearly as big as the pumpkins he grew. 'The man who likes to grow big vegetables' also had very long containers that he grew his vegetables in, everything from parsnips, beetroot, cabbages and carrots. He entered his vegetables into special shows and always came home with prizes and ribbons for his prized harvest.
Is that a Beach Hut??!
All around this beautiful place, were special little huts. Some people have greenhouses and 'social spaces' to relax, cook a little BBQ, meet with their fellow gardeners, sit & relax, watch their flowers grow etc. These huts are at the heart of this place. Each of them has a different character and shows the personality of each owner. The huts facilitate a real sense of place and belonging. People are very proud of their huts. Decorations and different paint jobs give them different appeal... Peter also thought, that maybe if someone gets into trouble one evening with their husband or wife, their garden hut would be a good place to go and take refuge.... !
The Cactus Greenhouse
Then there was a greenhouse which was full of cactus! Apparently these are wrapped in material like prized ornoments or pets during the winter to protect them the cold. The owner does a good job, because they were spectacular to look at through the glass of the greenhouse...
The arson, love affairs and you name it.......
So, it must not be missed that Peter also said, there are dramas at this community garden. Lets leave these interesting events up to the imagination shall we!
Nature...its beauty speaking at you
As Peter walked around the gardens, there were beautiful pieces of nature springing out left, right and centre. Flowers, trees and bushes were being given a rare chance to grow in this urban space. These plants were also providing a habitat for many local bugs, animals and even a person from time to time!
One of the special parts of the garden was the recycling water elements, compost bins and re-use of materials for the garden. Nothing was wasted. To an eye which is not 'tuned' to permaculture this maybe seen to be a bit messy looking... however to an eye who knows the principles of permaculture this garden was BEAUTIFUL!
An Iranian Garden, a beautiful sight!
Peter showed the tour group an Iranian garden. A special garden which shows the pride of the Iranian culture and their people. It was so tidy, and well kept - every detail was beautiful. The produce also looked so healthy and yummy. These allotments give the chance for many different cultural backgrounds to connect with one another, learn about each other and build understanding between people.
The Tool Man - Wally
This garden has fully run by volunteers. Quite phenomonal, considering there are 800 members!!!!! At some points in time a special member of the allotments assists with 'handyman' work. He is called the "tool man". In fact his name is Wally. In fact as Peter explained Wally the "tool Man" is quite unwell at the moment and the community has banded together to assist Wally to maintain his allotment. There was even a special notice up in the allotment kitchen to assist on a working bee for Wally's garden...
Yellow Card, Red Card - - You are OUT!
Is this a soccer match? Ummm no. It is a community garden. However the garden has taken on the rules of a soccer match when it comes to maintaining your allotment. Each month there is an inspection. If a garden is not up to scratch, it will receive a "yellow card", then the following month, if it is still not up to scratch, the plot will receive a "red card".... the following month if it is still not right, then the member will be kicked out of the garden, unless of course there are good excuses such as they are unwell. In this case, the community will assist them to get their garden back on track!!
Day drawing to a close
Peter had many stories to share, about different people and their gardens and we really only touched on the surface about what this place is all about. In essence it is a small town, within a town. A place where people find meaning, connection and belonging. It is also a place where you can grow some nice food, barter your food and connect to the simple joys of nature. Learning about different cultural backgrounds is also another special feature of this garden. On another level it is a place to learn about yourself and how you conenct to different people. Depending on who you are, there is something that this place may offer you.