Marian Temple looks back at Wanstead’s community gardening during 2020. With participation boosted by the pandemic, four previously neglected patches of public soil were transformed for all to enjoy in 2021 and beyond. Photo of the new Gravel Garden by Geoff Wilkinson
A year of pandemic and lockdowns would not immediately seem to be a promising year for community gardening activities, but in reality, 2020 proved to be one of our busiest years ever! Luckily, gardeners were exempt from the lockdowns and there were many who were unable to go to work, so had time on their hands to join us.
With a lot of hard work, the Cherry Pye Bed – the traffic island between The George and Wanstead Station – was changed from a dreary patch of tired shrubs to a glorious flower meadow. It lasted just a few weeks, but it was at the very time when people felt at their most vulnerable and anxious, so the swathe of bright flowers gave us all a much-needed fillip. The seed sowing was just a temporary measure. Our real aim, the laying of perennial flower turf, had to wait till December when the bed was stripped of greenery and fallen leaves, raked level and the turf laid. We needed the help of our friends the Good Gymmers – a running club who make it their business to do community tasks. The turf was heavy and it was a hands and knees job with Stanley knives to fit the sections in. The turf will be more robust and need less maintenance once established, and the flowers should come up every year. Fingers crossed for this one.
While we were still working on the Cherry Pye Bed, a new perennial border was making its appearance the other side of George Green, against the handsome wall where the traffic on the A12 disappears into the tunnel under the green. This border was created against all the odds during a dry spell. Now, it looks as if it’s always been there, a colourful delight for footpath users and cyclists as well as a resource for the nearby children’s nursery.
Just around the corner at the end of the new border, another classic sad patch of public soil has been changed into a gravel garden (with the gravel kindly funded by Martin & Co). This was a dead-end patch with an overflowing litter bin, smashed whisky bottles, weeds and rubbish. The new dry garden with plants, we hope, will survive long summer periods without rain and should provide year-long interest. It is west-facing and sheltered by the beautiful wall. Plants so far include an olive tree, succulents, Mediterranean favourites and our favourites, cottage garden hollyhocks.
Next to what is now called the Gravel Garden was a small, sad weedy patch with a junction box of some sort plonked in it. Of course, our out-of-control diggers couldn’t resist it. It’s now dug over and planted. Look for spring bulbs and wallflowers early in the year and a host of other plants strutting their stuff throughout 2021. What good company for the junction box!
Ironically, the pandemic has bequeathed Wanstead four new mini gardens, unlooked for, but to be enjoyed in 2021 and beyond.