Community blooms as the sun shines on Saffron Central

-®Lee Townsend +447590204493-9024

Copyright Lee Townsend

The sun shone on Croydon’s “Central Park” yesterday, as volunteers came together on the Taberner House building site for the #BigPotUp to plant 21,000 crocus corms.

Photo-journalist LEE TOWNSEND was there to capture the day exclusively for Inside Croydon

Croydon takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon “Croh Denu”, meaning “crocus valley”, and the Saffron Central project is calling on that ancient heritage to revive a precious crop which is thought to have first brought the Romans to the area.

Young and old came together at Saffron Central in Queen's Gardens. Copyright Lee Townsend

Young and old came together at Saffron Central in Queen’s Gardens. Copyright Lee Townsend

The volunteers were needed to pot up 21,000 Crocus Sativus corms in the centre of Croydon to ensure an autumn harvest of their precious crop of saffron spice crop – which is worth its weight in gold, and then some.

The sheer scale of Croydon's saffron farm is impressive. Copyright Lee Townsend

The sheer scale of Croydon’s saffron farm is impressive. Copyright Lee Townsend

The project has been crowd-funded with more than £4,000 raised in less than a week, organised on a voluntary basis by council employee Ally McKinley to pay for the crocus corms – they are most definitely not “bulbs” – soil and other materials.

Saffron Central mastermind and organiser, Ally McKinley. Photo copyright Lee Townsend

Saffron Central mastermind and organiser, Ally McKinley. Photo copyright Lee Townsend

The site of the former Croydon Council offices will be home to a pop-up saffron farm for the remainder of the year.

The council has given McKinley permission to utilise the Taberner House site for the duration of the project, which will be completed before building works start early next year.

Despite all his meticulous organisation, McKinley still belatedly discovered a short-fall between number of corms and number of flower pots to pot them into, a conundrum that some quick-witted thinking has helped to resolve over the weekend.

The saffron farm will only be using the public land for a couple of months, until the autumn-flowering crocuses can be harvested for their precious crop. Copyright Lee Townsend

The saffron farm will only be using the public land for a couple of months, until the autumn-flowering crocuses can be harvested for their precious crop. Copyright Lee Townsend

The project aims to scatter a little bit of saffron colour, and wealth, all around Croydon.

The community came together, with groups such as the Croydon Women’s Institute, known as the “Croydon Crocuses”, providing some refreshments including cake, while the 2nd Selsdon and Addington Scout group erected a marquee to provide shelter and shade.

Saffron Central acted like a pop-up allotment, offering some Croydon residents a rare opportunity to get involved in gardening. Copyright Lee Townsend

Saffron Central acted like a pop-up allotment, offering some Croydon residents a rare opportunity to get involved in gardening. Copyright Lee Townsend

Once harvested, the money raised will pay to continue the scheme, while the corms will be distributed to 24 new, mini-saffron farms to be run by the community in each ward in the borough.

Saffron Central's organisers will soon be seeking volunteers to collect the crop. Copyright Lee Townsend

The sun shone on Saffron Central. Copyright Lee Townsend

“This is a great opportunity to raise an awareness of how Croydon got its name for communities in all parts of the borough,” McKinley said.

“The idea was for people from community gardens, groups and schools come and help recreate the Crocus Valley in Queen’s Gardens by potting corms which will then be placed in the Taberner House site to bask in the sunshine.”

And indeed the Indian Summer sun did shine.

Within a few weeks, the crocuses should flower, ready to give up their saffron as a crop.

McKinley will be outlining later this week how you can volunteer to help at Saffron Central for the #BigSaffronPick.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Community associations, Croydon Friends of the Earth, Education, Environment, Gardening, Taberner House and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Community blooms as the sun shines on Saffron Central

  1. It’s a great idea and having missed the planting, I hope I can get along for the harvest. I think though it’s far more likely that the Romans brought the saffron crocus bulbs with them, rather than being lured here by our wonderful fields of saffron. The bulb is native to Mediterranean regions, not the UK, so unless anyone has any evidence of it being grown before the Romans arrived, I suspect we have them to thank. A much nicer gift than the pernicious weed ground elder, which they also brought with them.

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    • Am sure you’re right, Charles. But that’s not what’s said in our report. It was the fertility and quality of the soil and the growing potential of the North Downs chalk valleys that drew them here to grow their crops, saffron included.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That may have been what you intended to say but I am fairly sure that’s not what was printed in Inside Croydon, which is why I bothered to make the comment in the first place. This is in no way a criticism of the project, which I think is great. It’s the sloppy journalism that upset me.

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        • Sloppy reading more like. Now that’s really upsetting.

          The passage is still there, as originally published, if you could be bothered to go back and look. Oh, and it has never been “printed”, by the way. So, so sloppy.

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  2. Pingback: Community blooms as the sun shines on Saffron Central | LondonBiz WordPress Blog

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