Blenheim Gardens (Edible) Estate: Step 2: Contacting the Estate Office

By Bonnie | December 06 2008

Blenheim Gardens (Edible) Estate: Step 2: Contacting the Estate Office

Blog Category: General update

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    So I got advice from some useful people who had already been involved in such things, and met met Sarah Cannon (Sustain/ABUNDANCE/TTB) and Vinnie O’Connell who had done a similar thing on the Tabard Gardens Estate in Southwark with Youth offenders, and who runs New Leaf in West Dulwich and was behind plans for Tulse Hill Estate. After this i felt much braver and approached the Estate Office with my ideas. I had already got good vibes from one of the members of the Residents Management board and Danny the Estate Director had been supportive after an earlier email regarding the Transition Town Unleashing (at which the Blenheim Gardens vision poster was displayed). So having opened the topic of growing on the estate received interested sounds I emailed Danny again: I thought, with the Residents Meeting coming so soon, it was high time I emailed you and filled you in on some of the things that came out of the Transition Town Brixton meeting a few weeks ago. The poster I made with my vision of Blenheim Gardens got quite a lot of attention, including from some local architects and from some people from Sustain who are about to kick of the Captial Growth fund to achieve Rosie Boycotts goal of 2012 new growing spaces by 2012. All in all urban agriculture seems to be very much a happening thing at the moment and in trying to learn more about what has been happening elsewhere, especially in south London, I have been overwhelmed with information. I think one of the most interesting things I have come across is a joint publication between WEN and Sustain about growing on estates, which I have attached for you to have a look at if you have a moment. It certainly shows what can be achieved. I have started putting together some information about some of the options we could consider for this Estate. One approach could be starting a simple Gardening Club that helps hook people up together to share knowledge and get people growing more in the gardens they already have, encouraging them to make use of existing organisations like FoodUpFront and running a sort of local LandFit scheme which could pair up people with no gardens with people who don’t have time to do anything with their yards. Help could also be given, perhaps by representatives in different blocks, on setting people up with low-maintenance, small footprint Bag Gardens or Grow Boxes. Another aspect of this could be starting to utilise some of the bare patches of earth along the sides of fences and buildings, especially on the East side of the Estate. There is one opposite my house, which I would very much like to help my two neighbours in the flats above to start gardening – there is room for a good herb bed and fruit bushes and maybe some vegetables too. It could act as an example of what can be done, or as a training bed for people who want to have a go in a group before going it alone. Of course, there is also the possibility of allocating some of the common garden and lawn space to raised beds or small key hole gardens which could either be given in usufruct to keen individuals with no gardens, or could be maintained communally, with a committee overseeing the work that needs to be done (perhaps by a Saturday morning club) and the sale or distribution of produce. In any case, I think raising awareness of the many benefits of growing food can only be a good thing and will also help build up critical mass for projects like Jean Kerrigan’s children’s garden. The people I have spoken to on the estate are very positive about these ideas and I think it would give everyone a sense of pride to feel they are taking the initiative on something which is probably going to become quite common place, if not imperative, soon enough. I believe Vinnie O’Connell, who has a lot of family on this estate, and is an experienced manager of growing projects on Estates (he did Tabard Gardens Estate and is working on Tulse Hill Estate), is planning on coming over to the Estate Office to ask if we could give some sort of brief presentation at the Residents Association meeting next week. It would be good to get people’s feedback on which ideas they like the best, and also get their permission to leaflet and then knock on doors to survey people’s opinions more thoroughly. Let me know if it would be okay for us to present something, and if it would be okay for me to bring the poster I did for the Transition Town Unleashing – it’s about 3.5 metres long!! I’d very much like to talk to you more about all these ideas and get some input for you if you are able to meet up before the 21st? I have already tried contacting Selena but I think she is away? Thanks, and best wishes, Bonnie food_growing_&_social_housing.pdf

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Bonnie