3 Mar 2011

Bringing the Countryside to the City; City Farms & Community Gardens

For the few of us that did not go to Stockholm we took a wander around some interesting sustainable/green/community led projects around the Vauxhall area of London. The first stop was Vauxhall City Farm (click to access website); within this hugely urban area you suddenly come across this city farm. The farm invites anyone to explore, and is host to an array of animals (including a paddock offering riding lessons), a community garden, duck pond & much more. The farm is totally sustainable, for example the community garden produces certain plants & vegetables that produce natural dyes, which are then used by the spinning group. The farm is 100% volunteer run & they are always looking for new people to join them.

City Farms such as this one are invaluable to the local communities, without access to the activities & experiences the farm offers some children growing up in the city would never get to experience this kind of lifestyle. The farms enable families living in the city that may not be able to afford regular visits to the countryside a place to enjoy the animals & feel like they have got away from the hard urban landscape. There are several others in London, including Hackney City Farm.

Later in the day we visited Bonnington Square. Bonnington Square is home to a community garden, the follwoing description is taken from the 'Bonnington Square Garden Association' website:

"The site in which the Pleasure Garden now stands was the result of WW2 bomb damage. In the 1970's the Council erected a couple of swings and seats but then didn't maintain them and seemed to forget the site even existed! Without maintenance the park fell into disrepair; dominated by stinging nettles and dog mess. In 1990 a builder working in the area applied to the Council to use the site as storage, which both alerted the council to the fact that they owned valuable 'idle land' and the Residents to the fact that the land could be sold for development. The Bonnington Square Garden Association was formed by Local Residents to lay claim to the "wasteland". Thus after prolonged negotiations with the powers that be money became available from a joint Government and Local Council scheme and construction began in August 1994 transforming the land into a little slice of paradise that now beholds you - 'The Pleasure Garden'. The Garden is, of course partly in homage to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which existed 100m to the north of here and were a major feature of London for three centuries; a place of curiosity, promenade and play. The garden, surprisingly perhaps was designed ‘by Committee’ - several local residents and an Architectural firm. The intention was to create a gentle and beautiful slice of nature that could serve all sides of the community. A delightful play space for the kids and something of a sanctuary from the big city storm for the adults. It is one of the beating ‘hearts’ of our community and a place of pilgrimage for many more."

The garden is open to anyone to enjoy, and the residents are more than happy to discuss the development & maintenance of the garden. After completing the garden the association decided to extend the gardens philosophy by leaving the confines of the garden's hedges & spreading the planting out into the streets. They have pulled up paving slabs & planted tropical trees & plants. They believe the more they can plant the better, using every available space, improving inner city life by surrounding it with nature.

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