Back in 2018 we first reported on Battersea Arts Centre’s ambitious plans to turn a private, ‘dead end’ road full of car parking in to a community garden. This was an ambitious and imaginative project and we loved it – and we wrote about it again as it took shape, and as the accidental sculpture created as a girder was bent and twisted in the major fire was installed facing Lavender Hill.
The garden went through a brief phase of being mostly weeds, but gained a wider mix of plants during the various Covid lockdowns, when it came in to its own as a traffic-free outdoor space in an otherwise densely built bit of town. It’s now fully up and running as a community garden (and occasional outdoor seating area for the Freedom Tap Room – formerly the Scratch Bar).
The aim of the project had been to turn the roadway into a growing space with wildlife-friendly herbaceous hard-wearing plants, including fruit trees and shrubs, to produce regular, low-maintenance harvests of edible things. The garden aims to be wildlife-friendly, and it includes plenty of ornamental plants as well as a surprisingly wide range of edible foods. Kayode Olafimihan & Susannah Hall from Permablitz London (who coordinate several community-led gardens around the city) created the original garden design that helped Battersea Arts Centre win funding towards the project from the Greater London Assembly, Heritage Lottery Fund and Wandsworth Council.
It’s been an impressive transformation, from what was originally a bit of a blot on the landscape – a badly paved section of road dominated by parked vans and rubbish storage – to an open and welcoming space that does justice to the old Battersea Town Hall next to it. Our photo below shows what the site used to look like before work started.
The garden now works on a community basis, with Battersea Arts Centre running it in partnership with the Permablitz team behind the original design – and they are keen for us to all be involved! This is done with a regular series of ‘Permablitz’ days, where they are keen for everyone to come and help with the gardening.
A really important part of these Permablitz days is that everyone is welcome on these days regardless of age, style or gardening knowledge – don’t worry if you’ve never done any gardening before, since coming along to one of these days is a great way to learn, as well as to meet people in the Lavender Hill area. There are always a variety of jobs to do, whatever your experience or physical ability; everything from making plant labels (above) to settling new plants in; when we visited the audience ranged from about four years old to ‘old and wise’!
When we last visited work was underway to plant trees and plants, as well as to introduce worms (pictured above and below) to the various planters so that they could get to work on the soil. We had never previously realised you can get big parcels of live worms delivered to help with gardens – and picked up plenty of knowledge on what will settle worms in and keep them happy in their new homes,
These days, which are run roughly once a month, are also great opportunity to meet new people in the immediate area, and help develop the community garden. All the tools and gloves you might need are provided (including ‘worm proof’ gloves at the request of the four year olds present), as is food and drink to keep everyone going.
The next Permablitz day is on Sunday 9 October 2022, from 10am-4pm. Lunch will be provided and there will be activities suitable for all, including children – everyone is very welcome! Mini workshops will run in the morning (11am) and afternoon (no later than 3pm). Topics will include learning about the crucial role that earthworms play, and understanding the permaculture design of the garden. It’s all completely free! But the organisers do ask that you please book a place in advance so that they can know numbers for lunch, which is provided, and give you all the specific details. If this sounds interesting – book your place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More details about the garden – as well as future Permablitz events – are on the Battersea Arts Centre website.
And even if you can’t make it – do have a look at the garden as it settles in and becomes an increasingly established and well used part of Lavender Hill.