Last Summer I volunteered with Urban Growth London to take care of the beautiful Brixton Orchard. I’ve passed it many times, though it isn’t my most local green spot, it often brought me joy to look at the greenery on my way to work or home. However, I didn’t know much about the spot until fairly recently.
The history of the site, which sits between Lambeth Town Hall and St Matthew’s Church, is quite interesting. In 1952 it housed a bunker to shelter key staff from Lambeth Council in case of a nuclear attack.
Nearly 70 years later, Brixton Orchard was born. A crew of professional gardeners and volunteers began work on the piece of land on February 27th 2017. The key aim for the project was to showcase how green infrastructure interventions to address air quality issues can also serve other functions, such as reconnecting people with food growing processes, and giving locals green space to enjoy and maintain.
The Urban Growth team worked in partnership with the Brixton BID and Wayne Trevor from Open Orchard to create a bountiful green oasis in Brixton. The site hosts 35 fruit trees, which include different varieties of apples, cherries, pears, quince, plums and one hefty mulberry tree. The borders of the orchard are decorated with thistles, echinacea and various wild blooms.
Urban Growth Learning Gardens is a social enterprise that aims to improve Londoners’ well-being by working alongside them to establish & preserve beautiful, biodiverse spaces.
The three pillars of their practice are wellbeing, engagement and environment. We all love nature, but do we connect with it as we should? The team gets the local community more involved in their local green spaces while unleashing local potential and sharing knowledge on the upkeep of green spaces.
They also collaborate with local people, businesses, organisations, volunteers and organisations to instill valuable skills and encourage green thinking. Lastly, they help Londoners to gain more knowledge surrounding urban biodiversity, while establishing therapeutic green spaces without using harmful chemicals.
I enjoyed meeting Orsetta and Taye, two members of the Urban Growth team, who led the volunteers and maintained rigorous rules surrounding hygiene and equipment during the session. I also briefly met Bruno, the Founder of Urban Growth, during a riveting online masterclass on Garden Design, which included sharing key principles surrounding how to analyse and design a harmonious and well-balanced space of any size. You can read up on their Summer School here.
The team has inspired me to grow more, and to share different growing methods to those around me. By working with other organisations such as Good Gym, they bring together a range of Londoners to create impact within a community led space, while raising awareness of the importance of this work and tending to Mother Earth.
Especially during the current times, many of us have more time to take up new and interesting hobbies. Growing can be seen as intimidating and labour intensive, but there are simple solutions to help adapt traditional growing methods, such as window boxes and small kitchen gardens. Growing up in a flat, I always enjoyed seeing my mother’s window box in full bloom in the distance.
The weekly (socially distanced) volunteering sessions in Brixton Orchard are currently postponed due to Covid restrictions, but you can find out more via this page here if you would like to help out in the future. If you want to learn more about Urban Growth London’s other projects visit www.urbangrowth.london.