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. 

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.

Tooting Life – Pizzeria Sette Bello

Pizzeria Sette Bello is a more traditional Italian restaurant than Limoncello, in that it just serves pizza and pasta with a few meat speciality dishes.  But the food is good, inexpensive and tasty, so there’s really no reason why they should complicate matters any further.

There’s a great bustling atmosphere in this restaurant.  The service is great and the manager is only a little bit mad – nothing on the scale of Limoncello’s proprietor, who is really several prawns short of a cocktail.

I think this place is the best Italian restaurant in town, and it’s cheap to boot.  Brilliant.

Tooting Life – Full of surprises

Tooting never fails to amaze me.  I was highly sceptical when I heard about Merton Abbey Mills, an arts and crafts ‘alternative market’ in Collier’s Wood.  What particularly upset me was that I’d managed to live in the area for a year without knowing about it.  The thing about Tooting and environs is that – lovely as it is, the main shops tend to fall into one of three categories:

1) Take-away joints that make KFC look healthy – Tooting boasts ‘the biggest Chicken Cottage in Europe’.

2) Pound shops, usually displaying most of their wares on the pavement directly outside the shop, and often half way into the adjoining road as well.

3) Incredible Kerala style Indian restaurants – which make it the best place to live in the world.

But an arts and crafts-y type area it is definitely not.  However, I have visited Merton Abbey Mills and it is genuinely a proper arts and crafts market with a wide range of permanent shops including a pottery, a goldsmiths, a theatre and even a ‘rock shop’ which sells… er… rocks.

Well blow me down if there isn’t a farm within spitting distance as well!  I am gobsmacked.  Deen City Farm is nearby in Morden.  They have a riding school, growing garden, a maze and even a rare breeds livestock section.  On their homepage at the moment they have a notice about ‘Livestock for sale’.  This could be the source of the much anticipated chickens!  I am, needless to say, very excited about this.  Must get down there soon and have a nose around.

Incidentally I found out about this using a rather clever little gizmo on the BBC Countryfile magazine website called Big Barn.  You can type in your postcode, and it will return a map with all the nearby producers – farm shops, bakeries, delis, box schemes and even pick your own farms – close to you.  Genius.  The Countryfile podcasts are worth a listen as well.

Tooting Life – Limoncello

As you can see from the drunkenly swaying olive trees, Tooting and Tuscany may start with the same letter, but it’s considerably windier here. Unperturbed by the singular un-mediterraneanness of Mitcham Road, the owners of Limoncello took the plunge, and set up as pizzaria, trattoria, and general disher out of great food and good times in the heart of SW17 a couple of years ago.

The most important aspect of any specialist eatery as far as I’m concerned is a completely insane proprietor. Someone who insists on speaking a combination of his native language and that of his customers’ with no pause for breath to indicate that half way through a sentence you might have to reach desperately around in your brain for the remains of your GCSE language skills in an attempt to follow his train of thought. Someone who rallies the rest of the waiting staff in bawdy renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’ to accompany the arrival of a gigantic ice cream cake decorated with kiwi fruit, to be followed with ice cold glasses of Limoncello out of the restaurant’s deep freeze. Someone who has a range of comedy hats available to be thrust at hapless punters when they least expect it, to be worn for the remainder of the evening to great applause and frivolity.

Happily, as you may have worked out by now, Limoncello’s owner is blessed with all these qualities and probably more, but I haven’t visited often enough to discover the full extent of his powers yet. He is essentially the reason why Limoncello will go from strength to strength, whereas Tooting High Street’s Fiorentina amazes me weekly by its sheer continued existence.

Anyway, back to Limoncello. They have a diverse menu and the food is very good, there’s a nice buzz about the place and they don’t ram people in to the point where it feels uncomfortable when it’s full. Just go forewarned and ready to be entertained.

Tooting Life – Mcdonalds…

…have bothered to show their commitment to the local area, and/or remind their patrons where the hell they are, since they would have to be in a state of questionable sanity to be in there in the first place when there’s Scary baby kebabs down the road, by etching their location into the mirrors. Sweet.

Apologies for the dodgy picture quality, I was clearly in a state of questionable sanity to have been in there taking it in the first place.