Inspiration beyond the garden

Every now and again, a good news story comes along that warms your heart. So it was when I heard about the Community Garden development at the Fitzhugh Estate. In the midst of destruction and division, this is a project that unites. It brings the joy of nature to a small part of south west London and uses it to nourish mind, body and soul.

This blog tells the story of how it came to be. Karly, one of the Me Spot ladies, came up with the idea and has overseen the project throughout. What she has achieved is exceptional and offers inspiration on so many levels. It is the finest example of dedication, determination and altruism from someone who recognised the importance of community and chose to take action for the common good.

It has been joyful to see her friends in the Me Spot Garden Group step in to support her, giving not just their time, but also donating trees, plants, and tools. They even funded two roses for the garden. The picture shows one of them, the Queen Elizabeth rose, being planted at the opening of the garden on the Jubilee weekend.

I caught up with Karly to hear more about the project:

Where did the original idea come from?

The community garden was an idea I had after the Residents’ Association, of which I am chair, won a battle with Wandsworth Council. The community spirit engendered by our campaign made me think about other ways we could grow and support our community.

What was the main purpose of the garden?

A focal point to develop and support the community across all ages and backgrounds.

How did you secure funding?

I presented the proposal to the Council, hoping for about £2 000. To my utter surprise and delight, the committee supported funding for the keys parts of the project – the frame for the espaliered trees and climbers, 9 recycled plastic lumber raised beds, 4 new benches, and a shed with 4 water butts. They also provided hedging plants around the perimeter of the garden and covered labour costs. The total received far exceeded the usual £5 000 grant – approximately £25 000!

Once you were given the green light, what happened next?

Due to Covid, the work on the hard landscaping began in January 2022 and was finished at the end of February. Residents and volunteers then took over and began planting and maintaining the garden. We now have 33 active gardeners, ranging in age from 10 to 77, and the numbers are growing all the time.

We’ve used 1 000 litres of bark chips for our paths, 600 litres of compost for the 2 no dig borders, and about 50 cardboard boxes as the ‘liners’ for the paths and borders. We’re averaging 120 litres of water a day to water the garden – that’s about a water butt full. With little rain, our only access to water is a neighbour’s outside tap. We have 100 metre hose to enable filling the 4 water butts – about twice a week. Thank goodness we don’t have metering yet!

4 months in, how are things looking?

The garden is thriving. Apart from plants, trees and fruit trees, the raised beds are providing us with salads, tomatoes, carrots, herbs, aubergines, radish, mustard, okra, chillis, beetroot, beans and strawberries. They represent a cross section of our residents.

The cherry tree Clare’s neighbour gave us is full of ripe cherries. Another member of the Me Spot Garden Group has already made a cherry cake!

What have you learnt in the process?
This year has been very much one of trial, error and learning. The magnolia that Michele donated was originally in the wrong place and was definitely not happy. We moved it and it’s now doing really well. We planted far too much chard – and probably have enough for everyone to eat for the rest of the summer!
What does the future hold?

Post-pandemic, the garden provides a beautiful space for people to meet, relax, and make new friends.

We have already hosted our first event. The garden was officially opened on the Jubilee weekend by the councillor who supported the funding bid.

There are well-being sessions planned soon for residents including meditation and breathing work. We’d also like to start gardening classes to give people more skills and confidence in what we produce.

Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
I wish we’d started years ago, it’s proving such a bonus for living here!
Congratulations to Karly and all those who have supported her. It is an amazing achievement and once again goes to show ‘whatever the mind can conceive, can be achieved’. Inspiration for us all!

One comment…

  1. Janet+Wootton

    What an amazing achievement, well done Karly. Such a wonderful way of bringing your community together.

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