Researching Permaculture in London
Posted on 29 March 2011
Well, we arrived in London and immediately started researching local farmers markets so we could continue avoiding supermarkets. That turned out to be relatively easy thanks to London Farmers’ Market – all food and products are grown and produced within 100 miles of London. Some produce is organic, which is my preference when purchasing. This is a great way to meet local farmers but I wanted to find out more – so, this post is simply about sharing some of the Permaculture groups, initiatives and sites in London (UK) that I’ve been researching.
We are currently living in Zone 2 in West London and I have found it a challenge since I arrived to find permaculture sites within an hour’s travel time door to door on public transport. Space is limited and expensive and I guess the transient nature of central London’s residents isn’t conducive to these sorts of interests.
There are lots of allotments (apparently with long waiting lists) and plenty of community gardens and green spaces providing mental health support, raising animals as education for children, creating volunteering opportunities for those on probation and more… some are even growing some food amongst their ornamentals… but I’m looking for more than a green space to be in… I am interested in food security, sustainability, transitioning from peak oil and permaculture.
Looking beyond London’s central hub I have begun to find more… however, I don’t want to go too far… after all, I’m interested in what Londoners are thinking and doing about these issues.
Of the list below, some I’ve visited and some I am yet to visit. Some don’t use the word permaculture but I find them interesting and they seem to align with those principles.
This list isn’t exhaustive but will hopefully help if you are living in or coming to London, or just interested in what sort of things are happening elsewhere in the world. Like my time in Australia, I’ve found the transition networks here very useful, but have only joined the one closest to my area. Enjoy!
First, some useful Networks/Sites I’ve subscribed to. Here you will find more about what is happening in and around London.
This is an amazing self funded social enterprise run by local people in Hackney, East London. They take volunteers and do a great induction which I found really useful. They organise an organic box scheme for over 700 boxes a week. They source as much local produce as possible: their salad is grown in gardens in Hackney using permaculture principles. Their other produce comes from small organic farms in surrounding areas. They also run the only weekly all-organic farmers’ market in the UK. All the farmers come from within 129 miles of Hackney – and most come from within 60 miles of the market. They have received a grant to deliver 60 workshops to Hackney schools over the next year which will help young people in the borough learn more about food growing. They have also started organic growing classes for adults at their gardens. They are also creating a ‘Patchwork Farm’ in Hackney where trained apprentices grow food for the box scheme on small patches of land in back gardens, on church land and on estates. They have a grant to provide the land, tools, equipment and help with planting plans and the ex-apprentices work to produce salad leaves that are sold into their box scheme – generating jobs and income for local people. Volunteering available at 3 different sites on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
EBCC (Ealing & Brentford Consolidated Charity) have been developing (established in January 2011) a new urban agriculture business called Cultivate London which will be operating in the London Borough’s of Ealing and Hounslow. They are an innovative urban farm based across multiple sites in West London. They produce a range of herbs for sale to London households, restaurants and shops. The permaculture connection comes from an advert I saw that they were recruiting for a head grower who knew permaculture and would apply that knowledge to this project.
At FARM:shop exhibitions change with the seasons and nature takes its course. It opened in October and covers: ‘Aquaponic’ micro fish farming, High tech Indoor allotment, Rooftop chicken coop, Polytunnel, Venue hire. They are bringing farming into the city by developing a network of shops and growing sites across the UK. The one in Hackney is the start of this initiative. Their aims are to: 1) To excite and inspire city dwellers to grow their own food, fabric and medicine and make an income doing this. 2) To create direct links between farms in the countryside with communities in cities 3) To grow food commercially via a network of FARM:’s across cities and retail this food at FARM:shop’s. They take volunteers.
Reading International Solidarity Centre
They created an edible forest garden on the flat roof above the conference hall. Designed as an educational tool using permaculture principles, the garden has become an oasis in the centre of Reading, a demonstration of how a garden can support more sustainable lifestyles and provide a practical solution to the problems of ‘Peak oil’ and global climate change. It has had international media coverage and was shortlisted for the Observer Ethical Garden Award, 2009. They take volunteers, but apparently not for the garden because Mary has it under control!
London Permaculture Festival 2011
This is an event that is currently being organised for July 16, 2011, Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regents Park Road, London, NW1 7AY – near Camden Town tube. They are currently calling all Permaculturalists, Transitioners & Visionaries of a sustainable future to help plan and organise it. Last year’s event was apparently a roaring success, attracting a capacity house of over 900 people.
Stepney City Farm
Stepney City Farm is a community based, volunteer-led City Farm and Rural Crafts Centre in one of the most severely deprived and ethnically diverse communities in the UK. For nearly thirty years the Farm has provided London’s East End with the opportunity to enjoy learning animal care, gardening, sustainability and various arts. They have a small but very dedicated team of volunteers with many areas of interest and specialized skills ranging from Horticulture, Permaculture, Blacksmithing, Carpentry, Animal Husbandry, Alternative Energy and more who are available to meet the public at weekends and Bank Holidays and to school groups from Monday to Friday by prior appointment.
Green Peppers Orchard and Allensbury Forest Garden
Green Peppers Orchard and Forest Garden, 156 St Pauls Crescent,London, NW1 9XZ. Green Peppers a small orchard and forest garden. It has been up and running for 6 years. It is located behind a community centre on an estate next to London Kings Cross Station. Maiden Lane is fast becoming an estate leading the way in green initiatives, with local residents developing ideas on how to make the community more sustainable. They take volunteers and have a schedule of works on the website.
Green peas, South London Garden Organic & Permaculture group
They run Grow Mayow Community Garden, http://growmayow.blogspot.com/, in Mayow Park, Sydenham. SE26 4JA. They hold open work days for volunteers Tuesday and Thursdays 10 pm – 3pm. They also hold workshops/courses.
Kingston Permaculture Reserve
This site was designed about 19 years ago using the Permaculture philosophy of combining gardening and nature conservation. It is a beautiful mature garden which is a pleasure to be in even if you just come for tea break and explore the forest garden! They have regular workdays advertised on ProjectDirt.com, such as this one just gone.
Hackney Tree Nursery and Forest Garden
A site run by Hackney Marshes User Group that uses permaculture methods in their still very young forest garden. They also run a variety of skill shares and can host other groups wanting to do the same. Regular volunteering sessions, Tues 11-2 and Fri 9-11.
The Meadow Orchard Project – Crouch end/Hornsey
An urban Meadow in North London that they want to protect and grow into a healing garden, an orchard, an edible forest garden – to feed, heal and educate. Volunteer workdays – as Spring approaches there will be ongoing gardening and food-growing activities – seed-sowing, preparing beds and transplanting etc. The regular Saturday 10-4pm workdays have been well attended and this is now extended to Thu 11-3pm, so more people can come along during week. They have eco-building, a polytunnel, forest garden, wildlife pond, bee keeping, habitats management and are working towards a design and implementation based on permaculture principles, ethics and methods for people to learn and find out more about permaculture in practice. The design is an ongoing development based on observation and adaptation and collective input. It would also be good to develop more permaculture learning opportunities through courses and events.
Founded on wasteland behind Kings Cross station in London in 1973, in the heart of Islington. The Gardens provide the perfect environment for relaxing and taking it easy. Sit in the ornamental garden, with its array of colourful flowers and plants, or you take some ideas home with you from our kitchen garden with its wide selection of herbs, fruit trees and bushes. Join them on Wednesday afternoons for their weekly gardening club. The Farm also produces a wide range of fruit and vegetables for sale throughout the year from potatoes and onions to rhubarb. The Farm has a wide variety of animals ranging from rare breed pigs and goats to new born lambs and chicks. There are 5 beehives, in the recently rebuilt apiary, producing delicious honey that is for sale in the Farm shop as well as beeswax which is made into candles and wonderful beeswax furniture polish.
OrganicLea – Hawkwood Nursery Project
The project will develop 12 acres of disused Local Authority plant nursery (including ½ acres of glass houses) as a community food growing enterprise. Food and plants will be grown sustainably using organic and permaculture principles. Current volunteering days at their growing site are Tuesdays and Fridays 11-4pm.
This site was a problem, because it had a lot of rubbish on it, and no one wanted it. Naturewise, was offered the site by the Ally Pally [Alexandra Palace] Allotment Society, the brief was to turn it into a community allotment project. So in the winter of 2000, in North London, facing Alexandra Palace, under the guidance, care and work of Sharon Girardi, plot 21 was born. Plot 21 is a community, permaculture allotment project,at Alexandra Palace allotments site. It is currently run collectively by a core group of 4 people, who are at the site most Sundays. In addition workshops and workdays are often run from the site. Others are welcome to join in to visit, learn, plant, relax!
The London Orchard Project
The London Orchard Project, founded in January 2009, is a fresh initiative promoting orchards and fruit trees in London. They are working with Londoners to plant and harvest apple, pear and plum trees all over the city, and help us all to rediscover the pleasure of eating home-grown fruit. Join them and take part in the fruit tree revolution. The founders studied sustainability and have interests in permaculture, the transition movement, and organic food. They are partnering with local authorities, residents’ associations, park user groups, schools and other community groups to help design, plant and maintain community orchards in London’s parks, housing estates, schools and universities.They also provide training to four orchard leaders per orchard, who are responsible for the care and harvest of the trees. The orchard leaders are volunteers, and have all attended our dedicated training day on fruit tree technical skills and leading a community orchard project. These leaders have also developed an orchard management plan for their respective orchard and are responsible for getting others involved in orchard maintenance and activities as ‘orchard carers’.
Crouch End Budgens
Food from the SKY is about inspiring and growing a healthy and sustainable relationship with food in cities and with our supermarkets. They are doing this through food growing on roofs and running educational programmes for individuals, schools, supermarket’s team members and organisations. ‘FOOD from the SKY’ is a world first – A pioneering food growing and educational initiative on the roof top of Thornton’s Budgens supermarket, Crouch End, North London. ‘A new template for our future’. They use Permaculture and Biodynamic principles. Work days are Wednesdays 10am to 1pm on the roof and First Saturday of the month 12noon to 4pm on the roof.
Syon Lane Community Allotment
Syon Lane Community Allotment is a non-funded Permaculture and allotment space project. They advertise workdays on Project Dirt.com.
And please feel free to add comments, suggestions and other places for me to explore!