Blenheim Gardens (Edible) Estate: Step 1: Asking for Advice

By Bonnie | December 06 2008

Blenheim Gardens (Edible) Estate: Step 1: Asking for Advice

Blog Category: General update

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    When I started exploring the idea of a growing project I had no experience at all and had only owned something resembling a garden of my own for a year. I hardly knew my neighbours and had no idea where to start. So i asked some of the people I had met through FoodUpFront and Transition Town Brixton. Below is a copy of the email I sent them: Hello, I apologise in advance for bothering you with this plea, out of the blue as it is; I hope you don’t mind me contacting you to ask for some advice. I have only met a few of you, but have been given addresses for those I haven’t by Duncan Law from Transition Town Brixton, who recommended you to me as people involved in growing food, specifically within estate communities. I live on Blenheim Gardens Estate near the Windmill on Brixton Hill, and I am very interested in starting a viral spread of interest in food growing in my immediate area! I think my Residents Association might be quite up for some sort of scheme to support residents and I am planning on meeting with them shortly to discuss the possibilities… but to be perfectly honest I’m not entirely sure what pitfalls I am going to encounter. I would be very very interested in hearing your ideas and experiences and would be grateful for any advice or contacts etc. you might be able to offer. I have attached a brief document outlining some ideas I have had and also a sort of door-to-door survey form I was contemplating, to try to gauge interest amongst residents. Your feedback would be most welcome. Yours hopefully, Bonnie I received a lot of replies and people even forwarded my email to some people they knew who also took an interest. This was very heartening. Some of the things people said in their initial replies included: I think your plans to this work on Blenheim Gardens are good. At Renton Close we were awarded some funding from Lambeth CYPS for a three-year project expanding children’s play activities by setting up organic gardens on three council estates in the Brixton Hill area. This summer we started the first garden at Renton Close … working with Simon Ghartey… Our hope is to establish the next garden on Blenheim Gardens estate… I will phone you to talk further to you about this. Jean Kerrigan I would be very interested to talk to you about your ideas about growing on Blenheim Gardens. Vinnie O’Connell Many thanks and congratulations for this which sounds a great and jolly useful idea. I am happy to help where I can…to provide meeting or practical advice whenever possible. Don’t hesitate to get in touch. Annick Alet I’d also be really keen to come up and look at Blenheim Gardens Estate and to talk in more detail about your plans. It sounds fantastic. I work at Sustain at the moment, and they are doing a lot around urban agriculture and food growing in cities, I have forwarded your details to them. Sarah Cannon I was passed your email by my colleague Sarah Cannon. I thought you may be interested in a paper we’ve done on food growing around housing estates: I’m sure it wont answer a lot of your questions, and probably wont be as useful as speaking to other people with experience of doing it themselves, but it may give you a few pointers. We have a lot of support for this from housing associations – so let me know if we can help if you need to persuade the landowners. No promises, but might know someone who can be supportive. Check out London Food Link if you want to find out more about what we do: We can add you to our free monthly Urban Agriculture round up. Ben Reynolds This all sounds really great, so exciting! I’m not sure quite how the Guinness trust would relate to Blenheim gardens, what with our already established allotment. I can only really say what I would do if I had magic wand: 1) set up a clear committee with a clear membership. 2) involve people on the estate from the very beginning 3) Set up a sign! 4) Have regular set times for the actual gardening of any communal areas. You know, every sunday 10 – 1 kind of thing. I’d also instigate that from the very beginning. And advertise them on your sign. 5) I think for communal gardening you really need to go one of 2 ways – either ‘you garden that bit here” or “we all do it together but to a plan agreed and set up in advance. I think this second bit would have really increased the prouctivity. As it was, we grew potatoes where potatoes were already grown, and we had blank areas goign to waste in the summer months. 6) Decide what to do with produce in advance. On Guinness trust we never really did. I think the general idea might have been to give it ll to people invloved on the estate but as that was only really me, even with my best efforts at leaping out at passersby waving rocket, quite a bit actually went uneaten. 7) There is so much interest in growing things I really think you can but do well!! Louise Jordan

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