Wandle Park sows seeds for a community with flowers and veg

wandle park skyline

By Catherine Graham

Wandle Park Community Garden will be sowing the seeds of future success next weekend when the park’s annual garden party is staged on Saturday, July 27.

The garden party, in its second year since the revamped town centre park was re-opened, will feature acoustic music by Freedom of Expression, storytelling in a yurt, poetry from Poets Anonymous and a barbecue by the park café. Volunteers from the community garden will run seed-sowing activities for children, as well as face painting, hopefully allowing adults to spend time looking around the garden and learning more about this community-based project.

Since February, the volunteers,  led by Thomas Smith, the council’s volunteer and learning officer for the park, and supported by Croydon Transition Town and Friends of Wandle Park, have come together on Sunday mornings to work on nine raised beds on what used to be a simple patch of grass.

With much-needed help from The Conservation Volunteers organisations, the community gardeners have grown potatoes, spring onions, beans and peas, as well as flowers such as poppies, cornflowers and nasturtiums.

The volunteers meet every Sunday morning from 10am to work together sowing, watering, weeding, and harvesting the never-ending supply of vegetables and salad leaves, as well as chatting over a welcome cup of tea.

Wandle Park's new, natural look: nearly £2m was spent to revitalise the town centre park

Wandle Park’s new, natural look: nearly £2m was spent to revitalise the town centre park

The reasons why people volunteer at the community garden vary.

For some, it is ideal for those who live in flats or apartments and who do not have enough space to garden. Others have small gardens or just a couple of containers but have no idea how to begin to grow food in them.

For a few volunteers, it is a great way to get out in the open when they have been stuck at a desk all week, and to exercise and to feel happier and healthier. There is nothing like digging to relieve the strains and stresses of everyday life. Volunteers are made up of those who have no gardening skills or knowledge to those who are more experienced but the great joy of working together on this project is that, with sharing tips, ideas, and  skills, everyone is learning together and the sense of achievement cannot be underestimated.

Whatever the motive of volunteers, at the heart of it all is a desire to be a part of something, being proactive instead of waiting for somebody else to do it, with the aim of bringing the local community together. It is much about growing a community as it is about growing food and flowers. Adults and children alike are encouraged to come and join in, as well as local schools, as the garden can be used as an outdoor learning resource as well as giving children with no garden access to food-growing to increase their understanding about where food comes from.

Now with the additional support of EcoLocal, a Carshalton-based charity, the group is learning a range of gardening and food growing skills as well as developing friendships and team working skills.

As weeks go by, more people stop to chat to see what is going on and many have joined in themselves. It does not matter if you are an occasional helper or a regular the aim of the garden is that it is for the community run by the community, with everyone very welcome to join in.

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