In previous City Bumpkin podcasts, I’ve spoken to container gardener Penelope Bennett, guerrilla gardener Richard Reynolds, and the project manager of Deen City Farm, Ben Cheetham. Each podcast features an interview with someone pioneering a green initiative in London. It will be considerably easier for me to find such people from now on, as Nick and Mark’s Project Dirt provides a hub for such activities, bringing environmental projects and people together.
I was amazed to discover Deen City Farm just down the road from my house last year, and have been keen to find out more about it ever since.
It’s a riding school as well as a farm, with some lovely ‘growing gardens’. The site used to be used as a dumping ground, so the existing soil is contaminated. However they have cleverly got round this by using raised beds, and other planters such as shopping trolleys and old baths.
In addition to the growing gardens, the farm also has a fair amount of livestock, including an aviary, small animals enclosure, and more traditional breeds.
Ben Cheetham is the project manager for Deen City Farm. He was kind enough to invite me to the farm for an interview for another Big Smoke, Green Living podcast. (Flighty – this one is one cup of tea and two biscuits long I think).
The City Bumpkin podcast map!
This is Richard Reynold’s original guerrilla garden. It’s not actually his, it belongs to the tower block he lives in. Richard cleared it of dead plants, litter and rubbish in 2004, replanted it, and has been looking after it ever since.
It is just 2×2 metres – even smaller than the Penelope Bennett’s window-box allotment (the subject of the first BSGL podcast), yet for Richard it was the first step on a journey which would see him developing neglected land all over London, cultivating a forum for other guerrilla gardeners around the world, now several thousand strong, and being invited to create a garden for this year’s Hampton Court Flower Show.
I met up with Richard for a pot of tea in his flat above this little patch to find out more. He started off by telling me how he became a guerrilla gardener.
Richard’s book, On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook For Gardening Without Boundaries is excellent – I highly recommend it if you would like to know more about the movement.
Richard’s website has a forum where guerrilla gardening events are plotted and co-ordinated.
And check out the blog of his Recycled Garden, built for the 2008 Hampton Court Flower Show.
The City Bumpkin podcast map!
Finally, there is an article I wrote about guerrilla gardening in issue 57 (current issue at time of writing) of Permaculture Magazine.
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.
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.