On 1st May 2014, the third and final phase of my Leathermarket Gardens project took place under a wringing wet, grey sky. Ideal weather for my Planty (=part Planting/part Party)!
The previous evening, the plants had been transferred from Bankside Open Spaces Trust (BOST)’s HQ at Red Cross Garden by Nikki and me. Three-quarters-of-a-carful of plants and 16 hours later, Nikki, nicknamed “The Flower Ferry”, magically produced this precious cargo on site at the appointed hour.
The first of May dawned, gloomy as a Gateshead gasometer, as we converged upon the Gardens: Hej, Nikki, Hannah, Simone, Ying, Antoinette and Xander.
After a quick health and safety briefing by Hej, my main collaborator from BOST, about glove-wearing and potential syringe and needle hazards (there weren’t any!), we set to work:
We were once again grateful to Bob from Bermondsey Village Hall for generously allowing us access to the water supply – and to BOST for supplying the hose, reel and padlock – without all of which a planting in London might struggle to survive.
Of course, Nikki, a local beekeeper, was to the fore in the gardening :
And my elder son Xander and his girlfriend, Antoinette, soon pitched in to add youthful exuberance to our rainy morning plantings: Xander opened ground and cleared turf for the wildflower seeding, then set to some lavender planting:
while Antoinette used her green fingers to great advantage in multi-disciplinary fashion: digging, planting, cutting edges, watering and weeding.
Soon we were joined by Hannah, founder of Hiver Beers (and winner of Ocado’s Britain’s Next Top Supplier award in March 2014. Hannah reported that Tom Kerridge was very impressed by Bermondsey Street Honey.) Hannah soon proved that she was able to appear in public without a red carpet and flashbulbs – indeed, she was avidly getting her hands dirty in the cause of improving available forage for the Bermondsey Street Bees, whose honey is used in her deliciously reviving honey beer. All the volunteers took home a Hiver or two: bee-friendly alcohol – what’s not to like ?
The ground was bone dry half an inch below the surface and it was spiked with brick rubble and building spoil galore, making the spadework a drudgery of clangs and curses.
We were joined by Simone, who delighted in finding her first ever leatherjacket (which is what a Daddy-Long-Legs larva is called – and how fitting that she found it in Leathermarket Gardens!) and was keen to promote greater human connection with nature – which is perhaps as vital to keeping people sane as her own day job in I.T.
And Ying (married to Jan, if you believe in serendipity!) was there to lend her plant expertise to our gang of drenched navvies. But not before adding a touch of umbrella’d elegance to a damp, drizzling morning.
And not to forget a salute for the unsung heroes and heroines of the hour, a parade of spades:
To sum it up, we dug some holes and planted bee-friendly trees, shrubs and flowers. So now we have apple trees, currant bushes, honeysuckle and clematis climbers, traditional roses, sweet box, phlox, lavender, scabious, rock roses and wildflowers in a previously bleak corner of Leathermarket Gardens. Sounds simple, doesn’t it ?
Well, it is – and then again it isn’t. It takes vision, it takes planning, it takes enthusiasm, it takes resources and it takes community – 22 volunteers in total over all 3 phases. And it will provide: edible fruit in SE1, colour in a drab margins of a local park and sustainable forage for pollinators. We have designed and planted an edible, perennial, sustainable, low-maintenance, extremely diverse provision of bee-forage in an urban environment.
Let me be clear: this is unusual. This is not the standard I- saw-you-coming-at-£3.50-for-5g-wildflower-meadow-this-year-weed-patch-the-next temporary tokenism. This Leathermarket planting puts in the ground reliable, sustainable forage for bees, planned and provided by local volunteers. In the rain.