Tooting life – The River Wandle

It is amazing what people do in their spare time.  Dressing in green rubber waders from the waist down, and a Stabilo yellow jacket from the waist up would not be my usual choice of attire on a Sunday afternoon, but this week-end many Wandsworth residents will be trying it for size.

The River Wandle is a unique South London chalkstream which flows north from Croydon and Carshalton to join the Thames at Wandsworth. In Victorian times, the Wandle was one of the hardest-working rivers in the world, with 90 mills along its 11 mile length. In the 1960’s, it was officially declared a sewer.  (from the Wandle Trust website.)

On the second Sunday of each month, the Wandle Trust run community clean-ups at various points on the river.  This Sunday they will be tackling a section of the river in Earlsfield, Wandsworth.  Not exactly Tooting admittedly, but it’s all connected.  They reckon they will remove 2 skips worth of rubbish from the river in 3 hours, which is pretty good going.

Project Dirt and the Tooting Harvest Foodival

Summer may be over (I think I blinked and missed it), but grow-your-own continues to flourish in London. 

This afternoon I’m off to speak to Seb from Food Up Front for another City Bumpkin podcast.  Food Up Front is a brilliant project, encouraging people to grow their own food in their front gardens, back gardens, balconies, window boxes, wherever. 

Whilst I was pottering through the Food Up Front website, I discovered an environmental social networking site called Project Dirt, which aims to

Facilitate and encourage environmental action.  How?  By helping people form their own groups to undertake their chosen environmental projects.

All of which sounds like a Good Idea to me.  What is particularly exciting about Project Dirt is that it seems to be based in South London, so lots of the environmental projects on there at the moment are nearby. 

Through it I have already discovered that there are pears which need picking on a road near mine, which I intend to take full advantage of.  Not only that, my beloved Tooting is holding the inaugural ‘Tooting Harvest Foodival’ from 2-5pm on Sunday October 5th. 

TOOTING HARVEST FOODIVAL
A celebration of sustainable food
Sample food grown right here in Wandsworth, including…
Sag Aloo
Tooting Crumble
Blackberry Jam
Giant Tooting Salad
And a local dish made by Rick’s Café especially for the event

Talks and workshops on urban gardening, city bee keeping, permaculture and more!

Mark your favourite food spot on Food Map, find out more about
Deen City Farm, and Chateau Tooting!
And there’s more:
Face painting, apple bobbing, cakes and a fantastic food raffle.
Learn how to grow your own veg, find out about sustainable food and try some home-grown dishes!

Can I even begin to express how excited I am about this?  Can I even begin to express how angry I am that I’m working on that afternoon?  If you live nearby, please visit and show your support.

City bumpkin podcast 3 – Ben Cheetham

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).

Or click here to listen in a new window

The City Bumpkin podcast map!

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!

Fakery

First of all, on the subject of fakery, these pictures are not mine, they’re someone else’s.  Second of all, I didn’t know about this until I read about it in Gill’s brain.  So apologies to all concerned, but I think this is worth pointing out again.

This is a photograph of numbers 23-24 Leinster Gardens, W2.  Quite close to Paddington station.

See the blacked out windows?  That’s because these two houses don’t really exist.  They were demolished in 1868, so that a line of rail track between Paddington and Bayswater could be installed.

Rather than leave a big ugly hole where the two houses had been, it was decided that a 5ft thick facade should be built in the gap.

Go around the back of the street and you can see more clearly what’s been done.

Incredible really that they bothered.  I’m glad they did though, because it has given generations of pranksters an address to send pizzas, junk mail and various religious missionaries to over the years.

It also means that next time I’m waiting for someone in Paddington station I’ll have a useful diversion to go on to fill the time.

Someone even sold 10 guinea tickets to a charity ball at the address in the 30s, and it took the guests a while to work out that the door was never going to open.  This is yet another reason why I love this city.