Whitgift Foundation sows the seeds of a green revival

The Whitgift Foundation, Croydon’s biggest landowners and the operators of three large fee-paying schools, has launched an ambitious borough-wide gardening project to inspire residents to shrug off lockdown, dust off the trowels and get green-fingered as we spring into spring.

They claim that Grow With John is the biggest community project in the Foundation’s 425-year history.

Backed by television celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh, the Grow With John campaign is offering free packets of seeds to households, schools, businesses or community groups.

You don’t need a garden the size of Whitgift School’s to take part in this spring’s gardening project

And they have launched a new website packed with tips and advice for novice gardeners to encourage them to play a part in turning Croydon into a green oasis within south London.

After a recent name change – apparently, to distinguish themselves from the less well-known Tudorbethan archbishop Eric Whitgift – the re-styled John Whitgift Foundation issued a statement this week saying, “Following a year that has seen restrictions for all ages, the Grow With John plan will see the roll-out of thousands of seed packets across schools and care homes.

“Whether you are nine or 90, the Foundation is determined to help get their community involved.”

The website includes activities designed to inspire creativity with any windowsill, balcony or porch.

Grow well: Alan Titchmarsh

“Gardening is such a life-saver, both for individuals and in communities,” Titchmarsh said.

“It fosters our understanding of the natural world, feeds us and lifts our spirits.

“Congratulations to the wise people of Croydon on the ‘Grow with John’ project which is a brilliant idea and one which I hope other schools and communities will learn from. Grow well!”

All the microsite’s resources have been collected from residents across the Croydon community, with families, teachers and allotment owners all showing their support by sharing their journey as they get to grips with growing.

Sowing the seeds of the future in schools

It’s back to school for the borough, and with the benefits of being outdoors well-documented as a boost to physical and mental well-being, it is crucial now more than ever for children to reconnect with each other outside.

Free seed packs will be distributed to five Croydon schools, utilising the power of plants to rebuild the vital life skills of confidence, resilience, teamwork and communication that have suffered over the lockdown year.

Green-fingered grandparents
Grow With John is partnering with the Royal Horticultural Society to pilot their Grow Social programme across five care homes in the borough. The initiative, to help address loneliness, will bring residents together through growing and sharing gardening memories to help enrich the lives of those who have been most isolated throughout covid-19.

“Celebrating 425 years of supporting people of all ages and backgrounds across Croydon, this is the biggest community project in our history and will bring the joy of gardening direct to the heart of our residents,” said Catherine Shirley from the (John) Whitgift Foundation.

“The campaign will work to improve mental health, healthy eating, and sustainable living across the borough. We can’t wait to paint the town green and see what residents get growing.”

Encouraging wildlife into your garden could be one part of your Grow With John plan

Bethany Cutter, a teacher at one of the participating primary schools,  Oasis Academy Ryelands, said: “Having spent the majority of last year stuck indoors, the time is long overdue to get a little bit muddy and reconnect with nature. We are thrilled to be involved with the inaugural year of Grow With John and are excited to see what our children will achieve in the coming months.”

And if you’re thinking about venturing out into your garden, or setting up a window box, this Easter weekend, here’s a few tips from the Grow With John project:

Get planning: Build your gardening plan of action to make the most of any space you have.
Spring clean: Clear away the cobwebs of winter and tidy the garden ready for the long growing season ahead. Get those patios, flower beds and borders neat and tidy by hand or with a hoe.
Start sowing: Be it your vegetable patch or some meadow flowers, use the start of spring to get the whole family sowing seeds into well-drained soil in beds, borders and pots.

Croydon residents can sign up to receive their free pack of mixed chive and basil seeds and tomato seeds via the website www.GrowWithJohn.org.

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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 Charity, Gardening, Old Palace, Ryelands Primary and Nursery, Schools, Trinity School, Whitgift Foundation, Whitgift School and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Whitgift Foundation sows the seeds of a green revival

  1. Mmm there is a kind of mismatch here… well actually quite a few of them
    a. Tomatoes and basil are strange plants to choose to “green the borough” why not choose something which will last for years? Why not choose plants which are native to the UK – I thought that was the broad strategy at the moment.
    b. Lockdown has blocked many Croydon community gardeners who work for a pittance from working and earning at all as many projects have been suspended. So why bring in a celebrity from out of borough if the Foundation wants to connect with the community?
    c. Working with the community takes real effort – this just looks like a load of PR, not community engagement. I don’t remember the Foundation supporting us when we objected to the Swan & Sugarloaf being converted into a Tesco, with a carpark that is a deathtrap. Or enegaging meaningfully with the community to plan a town centre for all instead of maximising return on their investment properties.
    When I look at towns like York their big foundation, the Rowntree Foundation has left its mark throughout town it genuinely works for good for all. Croydon the historic buildings are kept away from the bulk of the population and reserved just for the few. The Whitgift Schools are social fortresses – Whitgift School itself is not even part of the parish that surrounds it but is a peninsular belonging to the MInster – how wierd is that?

  2. Lewis White says:

    Charlotte Davies in her comment above rightly says that ” Working with the community takes real effort” She then mentions the need for ” engaging meaningfully with the community to plan a town centre for all “.

    That is the key thing– we don’t need just seedpackets. We need the Foundation to be in this for the long run. Community gardeners don’t grow on trees……………. they need to be employed (for real money) and their skills employed for years and years.

    How do we get children to care for the world, and learn how to love nature, do recycling, and not join tyhe ranks f the litter droppers, fly tippers, and animal mal-teaters?

    It comes down to adults setting a good example and showing their childern love and care, and how to care for people animals and the planet.

    Here’s a few thoughts on what could be in the Whitgift curriculum…………………….

    Take a group of children down any road in Croydon, look at the treeess, plantless and lifeless concreted-over front gardens, and get the children to design an updated, greener solution where cars and wheelybins share the space with plants, butterfiles and bees!

    Then– get Charlie Dymock and her teams of helpers to come down with Alan Titchmarsh, and a few concrete breakers, skips to take away the concrete, and a few lorry loads of topsoil, comppts, small trees and shrubs, and bark mulch, then — the hard part, where the kids and the celbs come in with their people-skills– charm the residents to agree to transforming the current concrete and tarmac wilderness into a bee-buzzing paradise.

    Also, write to the PM. Mr Johnson and ask him to provide a million pounds to allow the council to replace the thousands of missing street trees that have disappeared from all aprts of Croydon over the years, and their pits tarmacked over. His predecessor M Thatcher allowed CCTV cabling of the streets without any controls as to where the pipes and cables were laid– with the result that the cabling companies laid the ducts right along side the kerb, in exactly the place where street trees have to be planted. Result? No trees can be planted there in future, ever.

    We may soon get even more cabling in the same kerbiside location with electric on-street charging points and feed cables.

    All the while, more residents converting their front gardens to parking results in loss of street trees, and vacant/ potential planting locations tarmacked over.

    The result will be even fewer trees in the streets.

    If the Whitgift Foundation are willing to employ me for a tiny fraction of Alan T’s fee, I would be delighted to assist them with some advice on how to maximise the “bang for the Whitgift green buck”.

    • Michael Hembest says:

      Dead right.

      Our Limpsfield Road has nearly lost all it’s front gardens and is just a concrete jungle I left in Central London.

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