Decades of rubbish removed, 14 tons of soil added, 180-plus plants rehomed. Job done. Marian Temple of the Wanstead Community Gardeners tells the story of the new Snaresbrook Station car park patch
Last autumn, we were approached by someone involved in the station car park at Snaresbrook. Did we know there was a neglected strip of earth there? Might we be interested in doing something with it? We went to have a look.
The strip runs half the length of the car park. It was a dry trench. It would need a lot of work to create a border there, but if we decided to take it on, we would be introducing greenery into an area of hard surfacing. Good for people, good for insects. Since we are street gardeners, we always ask ourselves with a new patch: “Who is going to see this?” In this case, it would be seen by people on the trains, on the platforms and the car park users.
It was going to be a big project for us, but it was impossible to know just how big until we started. Liaising with TfL and NCP, the car park people, we got going. With the help of 20 volunteers, many working parties and much earth shifting, the job has recently been done.
As with all the neglected patches we take on, the first task was ‘mank’ removal. We took out decades of detritus: plastic, cellophane, foil, food cartons and bottles. It was endless, but it all came out along with 20 metres of plastic pipe and a section of chain-link fence. All to the dump. Once cleared out, we had to think about filling the trench level with the car park surface. How much filler would we need? None of us knew. A learning curve. We put in 60 rubble sacks of leaf mould. Good stuff but it didn’t go very far. Redbridge Garden Centre brought along three tons of topsoil. That didn’t make much difference either. In the end, 14 tons of topsoil went into the trench.
As with all our patches, we plant stuff that, once established, can more or less look after itself. We cannot water. It was important to plant early so that good root systems could be established before the summer dry spells. We favour old-fashioned cottage garden plants and Mediterranean ones. They are tough, don’t get eaten by slugs and come back year after year.
The new border – all 35 metres of it – is in full sun, backed by a brick wall with the old concrete posts for the long-departed chain-link fence still in situ. How useful those posts are going to be! They will support the tall hollyhocks and mulleins we have planted. We have threaded wire through the holes in the posts the length of the border to support other plants: 180 plants have gone in, still counting. They are a mix of walking woundeds from the garden centre, plants sourced from our own gardens, the Corner House garden and our other local patches. Half of Wanstead is there. They are just waiting for more rain and sunshine before springing into growth.
For more information on the work of the Wanstead Community Gardeners and to get involved, visit wnstd.com/gardeners