Sunday, 17 November 2013

In and around the local area

View towards Crystal Palace from Durham Hill
There is nothing like a crisp late autumn afternoon to go exploring the local area. The light is precious at this time of year and you have to make the most of it.

In all the years I worked in Downham and used the old (and lovely) swimming baths and library off Moorside Road, although I must have seen it I didn't really take that much notice of their location and the magnificent views across south London. Durham Hill, which is sometimes referred to as Downham Playing Fields, is accessible from various points along Downham Way, Moorside Road at the junction with Durham Hill (the road), and behind the Leisure Centre.

Downham Swimming Baths (photo courtesy of Ideal Homes)
'When I came back in 2002 the baths had closed and were in a sorry state' (text and photo courtesy of Friends Reunited)
The baths and library were eventually demolished to make way for the PFI financed Downham 'Lifestyles' Health and Leisure Centre, which combines health services and leisure activities in one odd looking building - from the front at least.

Downham Health & Leisure Centre, looking towards Downham Way/Launcelot Road
Towards Downham Way, in the autumn sunshine.
Towards Southover and Bromley Hill
Closer to home  near Goldsmiths Community Garden and the centre the prefab estate is being prepared for demolition and redevelopment. I'm struck by how quickly the lovingly tended gardens have been reclaimed by michaelmas daisies, brambles and bindweed; grass unmowed, shrubs not pruned back.

Contrast the two photos below, taken in March 2011, with now.

 Eighteen months' later. The end of an era.


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Fruits of our labours

Chill in the air

It's been a fruitful year in the community garden, little by little; many herbs have been picked and grown stronger for it, the bricks of the herb spiral are hardly visible, one apple appeared on the fruit trees planted in early spring and the trees are beginning to establish.

A few blackcurrants, peas and lettuces here, some tomatoes there. Lettuces, leeks and broccoli grown in terracotta pipes it's been a year of surprises all round. The brambles are nearly vanquished. When I arrived at the centre on Tuesday green Marmande tomatoes were lined up on the patio table - mysterious. I'll have to make a lot of space on my south facing windowsills for them to ripen, now the temperature has dropped. The ones left on the plants (not many!) may ripen if the sun comes out.

Trevor, super volunteer at the IT Suite, and his wife Rita donated a compost tumbler and a big bag of compost to the garden. All the fruit trees have benefitted from this largesse, and the compost to come. The compost bins built from pallets last year have got bigger and bigger and have now become a repository for branches and twigs. A job for the autumn.

Meishu and Una from Kendale Allotments community gardens brought produce to the Downham Nutrition Partnership AGM on 11 September, which shows what can be done in smallish spaces.

Kendale display at the Downham Nutrition Partnership AGM, with tomato varieties from Dr Tattersfield's garden, white borage, herbs, calendua from Goldsmiths Community Garden and green Marmande tomatoes from Kendale allotments
A solitary Braeburn apple from the fruit trees planted in February this year
Swiftly consumed by Kerry!
Una's produce from Kendale

Rosemary, sage and mint in the herb spiral, planted September 2012
The herb spiral and brick bed, lavender still in flower 3rd September 2013

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Garden travels -Les jardins d'Evea, Maresquel

In late May we visited old friends in Lesconil-Plobannalec located in the Pays Bigouden, Finistere, in the far south west of Brittany. As soon as I turned my camera on it died as I'd forgotten to charge the battery. This also happened to my phone. I had to rely on my memories, and last year's photos (as though I could forget this view of the harbour).

Photo taken from outside the shop, which has an oyster stall on market days and displayed this copy of Liberation, which made me laugh every time I walked past.
We spent Bastille Day (14 July) weekend at a friend's house in Humeroeuille, Nord Pas de Calais. This time, the camera worked and I used it to take photos of a garden that we'd visited three years ago.

Les Jardins D'Evea is on the road between Hesdin and the lovely walled town of Montreuil Sur Mer, behind a typical suburban house with a stunning front garden. Alain and Sylvie Dautreppe the owners have created this garden in only 12 years (and 8,500 plants!). It is one of the most eccentric gardens I've visited, with surprises at every turn, like this delightful quote.

The 5 acre garden is divided into areas and 'rooms' with plants from all over the world interspersed with old furniture, statues and farm equipment creatively and artfully displayed. You may run into chickens, ducks and turkeys along the way or encounter a japanese bridge. A stream forms the boundary of the garden, a tributary of the Canche. If you are in the area, pay a visit - 5,80 euros well spent! They sell very healthy plants (I was very tempted) and have a delightful small cafe and seating area.

Friday, 5 July 2013

The pipes of broccoli

Yesterday was the first time I'd had a good look around the grounds, to see what progress has been made other than in the community garden. Outside the hall, the beds have been dug over and I discovered what had happened to the tray of broccoli seedlings I picked up from St Mungo's a few weeks ago. They seem to be thriving!

In the community garden itself, the blackcurrant bush planted last spring has produced a few berries. Watch out, Ribena... Herbs, traditional apothecary plants, fruit and vegetables all happily co-exist in this sunny open space.

These lovely dianthus are now in full bloom. They were from Lidl or Aldi, 99p specials. I don't know the name of the white, pink tipped rose although I've had a good look on the internet.

Every Thursday morning the community garden is transformed with a shade sail and tent, books and toys and guinea pigs, for the pre-walkers outdoor play session run by Limelight. The session provides sensory experiences for the little ones, and it's great to see the garden put to such good use!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Midsummer update

Note the bucket and terracotta pipes - more later
This is the community garden in mid-February 2013 before the fruit trees were planted. We received a grant of £150 towards a mini-orchard from Capital Growth, and Elwood kindly bought and collected them from Keepers Nursery near Maidstone.

The photograph below was taken in May, with the fruit trees planted and settled in. We are now the proud guardians of three apple trees, three pear trees, a King James mulberry tree and a red filbert. The apple trees flowered and have produced fruit. The idea was to replace the brambles, which local people could pick if they dared, with something more substantial and less thorny! Removing the chain link fence from behind the palisade means that we can remove the bindweed more easily too.

The community garden benefitted last year from the Groundwork Hampton Court Flower Show re-use scheme, and again this June from their Chelsea Flower Show re-use scheme co-ordinated by Anne Marie of Lewisham Gardens.

Last year the plants were collected and distributed at St Swithun's, Hither Green Lane, and this year at Spring Gardens, Hither Green, a homeless hostel managed by the St Mungo's charity. The first articulated lorry turned up bearing large quantities of york stone, paving blocks and aggregate and the driver kindly gave us both a go of the grabber remote control - an unrealised dream until then!

Payback has paid off!

The payback team have taken the community garden to their hearts. Without their careful tending of the garden every Sunday, I would need to be there a lot more.
White borage, lovage and achillea with fruit trees in the background

Every time I visit there is a delightful new addition to the garden - this edging was made and installed by the team. The team have taken enthusiastically to planting, and the 40 or so plants I collected from Spring Gardens were in the following day. In some surprising places....

Imaginative use of the terracotta pipes, and a galvanised bucket! I hope to encourage the team to eat the lettuces and peas growing out of the pipes, which Anne Marie refers to as chimneys. The plants seem to like it and who knows, it may start a trend!

Courgette and leek, 'pipe' grown

The Apothecary Garden

Here are some photos of the apothecary garden, in full bloom. The white borage plant, bought last year from Dig This nursery in New Cross Gate (do pay a visit, if you need some herbs) surpassed all expectations.

The herb spiral, created last September
This is a garden I visited recently, in Downham. It was created and maintained by a group of disabled people, who due to funding cuts no longer tend it. I am looking at it for a project involving older people and gardening, and another to link community venues and green spaces across Downham, Whitefoot and Grove Park. Can you guess where it is?

Please visit the Downham Interagency website for details of how to get involved in these projects.