City bumpkin podcast 1 – Penelope Bennett

Despite my frequent rants on the subject of getting out of The Big Smoke and away to the countryside where I can keep chickens in the garden and expand on my allotmenteering adventures, I still love life in the city.

What is particularly fascinating is the frequent stories about Londoners bringing a bit of ‘green’ to the place.  Some of them have built eco-houses with ingenious climate-control systems based on the anatomy of trees.  Some of them are running entire farms in the midst of the urban sprawl.   Some of them set out to covertly improve the area they live in just for the hell of it.

I’m going to make an attempt to collar a few of of them for a bit of a chat, (preferably to be accompanied by a cup of tea and a sit down) in a thinly veiled attempt to extract trade secrets and accumulated wisdom on how life in The Big Smoke doesn’t have to be all concrete jungle.

So here we are, the first of a series of podcasts with people leading green initiatives in London:

City Bumpkin podcast 1 – Penelope Bennett

Penelope Bennett is the proud owner of a 4.9 x 2.4m (16 x 8 ft in old money) garden on the roof-terrace of her home in the heart of London.  Over the years she has grown hundreds of different varieties of fruit and vegetables in this small space, including figs, saffron, Oriental salads and over 30 different types of potato.

Having read and reviewed her brilliant book Window-box Allotment, I was very keen to see her little garden in the flesh and collect some of her wisdom about container gardening in small urban spaces.  Penelope was kind enough to give me a tour.  She began by telling me how it all started.

Or click here to listen in a new window

Penelope’s book, Window-box Allotment is published by Ebury Press.

Her work has also appeared in The Weekend FT, The Times, The Observer, The Guardian, The New Statesman, BBC Green, BBC Worldwide Website, The Daily Telegraph, Harpers and Queen, Al-Ahram Weekly, The Oldie, Food and Travel, Encounter, Contemporary Review, Modern Painters, SAGA website magazine, Macmillan’s Winter’s Tales, The Atlantic Monthly, Mademoiselle, and on Morning Story.

The City Bumpkin podcast map!

Author: Rachel Wheeley

Comedian, podcaster, based in London, UK

9 thoughts on “City bumpkin podcast 1 – Penelope Bennett”

  1. Well done on the podcast! Windowbox Allotment is one of my favourite books, so I was thrilled to hear Penelope Bennett talking about her garden.

  2. I live in the countryside and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Actually, I don’t like it and would love to live somewhere more…….stimulating.

    Being “green” is also easier in a town/city if you ask me (can you tell I’m having a Bad Day?).

  3. Great post, great idea. Look forward to future installments. I think you need a special loop on your belt for a small thermos full of tea, fitted with an extra cup. That and a collapsible lawn chair, and you’re all set.

  4. What a good entry! I listened to the podcast over my second cup of tea.
    I’ve great admiration for gardeners like Penelope Bennett, whose book I’ve not yet read but it’s on my list! xx

  5. dear penelope,it was nice to here your voice again and to see your roof terace again it must be at least thirty years since i was last on your terrace i rember it well ,i took a leaf from your book and now have more than one thousand plants and fruit trees in mygarden and terrace all in pots and all grown from seed or cuttings i find as you say its easyer to control things in pots and to give each plant its perfect soil and compost also if a pot is not happy in one place you just move until it is. In ten years of living here we have moved house four times from the moutains to the city and back from sea level to five hundred meters ,north to south and can say we have only lost five plants in all this time ,i would love to come and see our place please e mail me and keep up the good work love chris xxx

  6. My ‘Window-box Allotment’ book is being published next spring in an enlarged, extended version with about a 100 photos and sketches.

    I have sent your interview to the publisher’s publicity department.I hope you won’t mind.
    How is City Bumpkin?
    Best wishes,


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