Covid-19 and our gardening - please read

Join us to celebrate our Urban Harvest!

Donna, Styles Gardens, photo courtesy of Johanna Gilmour

We have loved welcoming so many new growers to IEL this year and want to celebrate our combined harvest by inviting you to have a ‘moment in the spotlight’.

We are running a zoom/webinar during Capital Growth’s Urban Harvest Festival week (18-27 Sept). Our event will be on Wednesday 23 September from 5-6pm and we would like to invite you to chat for two minutes about your growing experiences this year.

One gardener commented to us “My garden has been like a second home over this covid-19 period of isolation and cut-off. A place to cultivate and be at one with Nature”. What has it meant to you?

Here are some suggestions for what you might like to talk about:

  • You could tell a story about someone you shared seedlings with
  • You could tell us about a new friendship you have made because of food growing
  • You could show us around your garden, and show off your achievements
  • You could simply tell us why food growing has been so important for you this year

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! We will be providing cash awards of £25 each to the first ten people who step up to tell us their story, as a way of saying THANK YOU to all our growers across Lambeth. Get in touch TODAY incrediblelambeth@gmail.com

To register to listen in on the event, go to Eventbrite here

Glyphosate is history on our estates!

THANK YOU to everyone who continues to put pressure on our Council to change it’s policies on the use of this harmful chemical. We need to keep going and achieve a similar result for our streets.

Press release, Friday 7th August 2020

Lambeth Council says it has today (Friday) ended the use of
glyphosate on its housing estates, “effective immediately.”

“We have beeen phasing out our use of glyphosate across the board,
working towards ceasing to use the pesticide across all its services
by the time its new contracts for waste collection and street
cleansing begin in 2021″ says a council statement.

“The use of herbicides has a significant impact on the environment by
removing plants that are an important source of food for a variety of
native insects. “The council acknowledges that we are facing climate
and biodiversity crises and is committed to doing all it can to tackle
these.

“The use of glyphosate for routine weed management is now banned
across all parks and open spaces and on Lambeth housing estates, as
well as to treat weed growth in tree pits across the borough. “On top
of this, the council has cut its use to treat weeds on streets by a
third and continues to trial alternative methods.

“The way local councils are funded doesn’t usually allow for research
and development, but Lambeth is committed to investigating all
potential ways of ending its use of glyphosate and improving its
biodiversity

“Trials of alternative methods, such as hot foam treatments, are
ongoing, but they tend to have a separate set of severe negative
environmental impacts including huge amounts of wasted water. “We are
continuing to explore selective weeding and increased manual weeding
too as ways to control excessive weed growth.

“We also continue to offer residents the chance to group together and
opt their street out of the weed-spraying schedule, whilst taking
responsibility for keeping their street free of weeds until the new
service begins.”

Word from the Cabinet

Cllr Jennifer Brathwaite, Lambeth’s cabinet member for housing and
homelessness said: “One of my priorities since I took over this role
was to look at how we could quickly end the use of glyphosate on our
estates as part of our commitment to improving the borough’s
biodiversity.

“I am pleased that we have been able to do it and we will look to
suitable alternatives to ensure we keep our estates clean, tidy and
free of trip hazards as well as places where nature thrives.” (Source:
Lambeth council’s official website Love Lambeth)

Meet a group – Larks Garden

 

Hi Sylvie, it was great to meet you last week and have a tour of your garden. (watch the virtual tour here). Could you let us know a little more here please?

How many people are involved with the garden?

We have 25 members but volunteers come when they want, so it is quite irregular; it could be in winter time: 4 volunteers, but some weeks ago we had 20 volunteers turn up, so we have to adapt. We are all volunteers, no one is paid to work in the garden

Wow – 20 people all at once must have been challenging! Could you remind us when you are open for volunteers please?

Every Saturday – 11am – 2pm

What are your greatest challenges?

On two occasions, we have felt out of our depth, when working with people who suffer from serious mental health. We want to support everybody and we know that the benefit of gardening is very powerful to help in moments of distress, but we also have to protect everyone. It is a fine balance but generally, it works very well.

That’s so true – we all know the value of getting into the garden but keeping everyone safe must be a priority too..

What do you consider to be your greatest successes?

I think our greatest success is that after years working in the community garden, all the park has changed; more people are using it and respect it too. When we first gardened here, we used to find a lot of needles, dog poo … it is now very rare. And people love to walk in the Larks garden and involve their children. We feel people are talking more and we feel more connected to the local community.  And of course, we have seen the beautiful plants growing from the hard work all the volunteers put in.

That’s such a great achievement!

And finally, what would you like help with (from IEL and/or its members?)

We always need soil and manure, and trees and plant donations. And we would like to be connected with our local doctor’s surgery. 
We would also love to know more about the plants we already grow and what are their (medicinal) benefits. And what other plants that we could grow safely to help certain conditions…

I think there’s an opportunity for an event here (maybe online for now!) – talking about the medicinal qualities of the plants we grow..great idea Sylvie! Thanks for sharing with usyou have worked miracles here.

FIND OUT MORE about the Larks by going here

A practical guide for community gardens to self-review..

Growing Connections is a project of Sustain, funded by the Centre for Ageing Better and DCMS through the age-friendly and inclusive volunteering programme. The project was delivered by our partner, Capital Growth, Sustain’s network of community food gardens across London. It was designed to facilitate, collate and share best practice across the network and beyond.

Capital Growth connected gardens, buddied local projects together and recruited a team of community leaders to form a Community Garden Group. The group met through 2019 to explore positive and negative volunteering experiences, any barriers to people getting involved and the principles of inclusive volunteering. The end result is a guide containing the principles of age-friendly and inclusive volunteering, tips for best practice and provides a tool to self-review community food projects’ inclusivity. To find out more or download the guide visit: www.capitalgrowth.org/growingconnections

Meet a new group member: Thorlands Gardens

How do you describe your project?
Thorlands Gardens
is a food growing club based on an east Lambeth housing estate, in Camberwell, SE5. The estate was mainly built in the 1950’s, and is strangely hammer shaped.
Thorlands Gardens is named such for good reason. Firstly, It just so happens that Thor was the God of Agriculture. Someone, unbeknown to us, wanted to leave a legacy in the naming of the estate, with a nod to the Scandinavian connection with Queen Anne’s husband the Duke
of Denmark. Indeed the estate sits on Denmark Road, not far from Denmark Hill, where the monarch and her husband apparently lived.


Secondly, our tagline, ‘The first Camberwell market garden in over fifty years,’ was dreamed up, in the context of the whole area previously being farmland, mainly market gardens, orchards, pasture and meadow for sheep. Some of these activities continued up until well into the 1950’s. One interesting fact cited in the archives was that the English herb yarrow
was collected in the fields of Camberwell and sold in London. Apparently, yarrow was used for cleaning the typhoid-ridden water by brewing with barley into weak ‘Flowers’ ale!
Lastly, but by no means least, we all think the name and tagline just has a happy ring to it!
Wow, that’s such an interesting snippet of history – thank you Simon.

Can you tell us why you set the project up?
The project was set up by Thorlands TMO Committee with the help of a local food grower and garden designer. There was a shared vision to move forward with a zero miles food project on unused and unloved brownfield spaces. There was an understanding that residents of all ages could volunteer simply for the value that experience gives to individual wellbeing. There is also the added bonus of sharing the fruits of the labour, which in this case is healthy produce, such as vegetables, salads, herbs, and edible flowers.

And what is the main reason for wanting to join IEL?

Thorlands Gardens is a new project with the need to promote volunteering, and horticultural experiential learning. Being on the IEL Map will help, to recruit more residents and locals, when safe to do so. Bringing people together so we can grow the capacity of the production for locals by locals, is a primary goal. The IEL Map will also be an invaluable platform to promote the benefits to individual health, a community as a whole, as well as the project’s long term mission to be a part of a new food growing culture and circular economy. Thorlands Gardens will provide some much needed
work in the primary sector, right here in Camberwell.

That’s really exciting – to provide employment, we too want to get more people working in this sector!

– and what are the challenges you face in the short, medium and long-term?
Well, as the garden is now starting to take shape in one of the main growing areas we see the possibility of a glut of food in the very near future. However with the current restrictions on working we have simply the challenge to keep up the sowing, potting on and watering. So we
would like to work with IEL to promote an ‘Open Market Day’ which will promote future events on site. We think that is a great way to drive up the interest, the voluntary hours, and also bring a regular customer base.

In the mid term we have the challenge of a dichotomy, one of creating some meaningful local work, while shoppers are still having to keep a healthy distance. The exciting news is that Thorlands is situated in Camberwell in the middle of three towns with five farmers markets. We have already been offered a place at one of those, when the moment is right to open up again. That will involve training up a volunteer as an intern into work. We will
announce which market when the moment is right.


Another long term challenge or a golden opportunity, depending on how you frame it, is the mission of providing employment. The role of a ‘Market Gardener’ which demands a ‘soil to stall’ regime, may be for some very challenging. However, for the right person, an exciting challenge. To keep the learning process an enjoyable one, the role will be mentored and
skilled along the way, experientially. They will learn all about planning, sowing, growing, harvesting, running a stall, selling the produce and promoting the project. As well as learning the ways of plant care and most importantly people care in this pandemic era, the worker will also learn and take part in the social media journey including photography, video making & vlogging. This will expose the very real daily goals or challenges of such a lifestyle.
There is a further, specific long-term challenge here, associated with the role of ‘Market Gardener.’ This will be to recruit, train and retain the right people. I think perhaps this is a ‘hearts and minds’ challenge. Persuading unemployed skill-full people, that may have a totally irrelevant qualification, that local urban food growing is a meaningful and exciting
business, and a joyful job worth having.
In answer to the main question, we think that these aims make Thorlands Gardens a most unique project in the making.

That’s an amazing and very exciting vision Simon! Thanks for sharing it with us – how should anyone interested in your project get in touch with you?

Contact Simon on this email, thorlandsgardens@gmail.com

WeGrowFor is looking for volunteers to get Lambeth growing even more food!

mother and child watering veg

A new social enterprise is developing a growing pilot in Lambeth that has been inspired by Covid.  The founders, Streatham based Stephen Vasconcellos and Aussie Lucan Creamer, were concerned by the disruption to supply chains that resulted in supermarket shelves  being blitzed.  They worried that the UK was only 50% food secure and had concerns about how our cities could feed themselves during another pandemic or a future climate shock.  
 The initiative is  WeGrowFor.com and it is partnering with Incredible Edible Lambeth to get Lambeth growing even more food. 
The simple idea is to create an Airbnb for unused garden spaces to get people growing. This meets an important need because:

  • There are 206,000 allotments in the UK (woefully oversubscribed) with 6m people waiting for an allotment – some lists closed and others have a 25-40 years wait
  • 7.4m gardens in the UK (1 in 4) are unloved and often overgrown and an embarrassment to their owners
  • Large numbers of front gardens in cities are paved, impacting biodiversity
  • Members of ethnic communities are up to four times less likely to have access to a garden than caucasians
  • Covid times have seen a ten fold spike in growing
  • In London, more than 2.3 million Londoners live below the poverty line and 33% of adults have skipped meals to save money so that their children can eat.

The WeGrowFor team is currently in discussions with Hubbub who had partnered with the GLA, Homebase, and Ikea (amongst other partners) to deliver 10,000 grow kits across London last year under the auspices of a campaign called “Give it a Grow”. Hubbub is also keen to be part of this pilot. Clearly, the need is greater than ever. 
The WeGrowFor model is to encourage growers to adopt square foot gardening. Square foot gardening is an engineered gardening process using raised beds that are divided up into square feet sections, and organised with clear instructions about the numbers of veggies that can be planted in each section. The process is  simple and no dig – and involves  2% of the effort of normal gardening and results in 5 times the produce. It’s highly efficient and easy to manage. The goal is to bring in external partners to help with some of the supplies and resources – as Hubbub did with its successful campaign last year. 


The team envisages a community of thousands of budding gardeners (“growfors”) growing their own vegetables across Lambeth, utilising unused and unloved spaces, and growing to tackle food poverty,  to increase health and wellbeing and reduce food miles. 
WeGrowFor is also looking for Gardeners and for Landowners or people with unloved spaces


WeGrowFor is working with a number of volunteers who will map out Lambeth’s growing potential and build out a database of unused garden space (front and back and with access), which could be an incredible resource for growing. 

You can reach Stephen on stephen@wegrowfor.com.

So many people have done amazing things over the past few months and we thought we’d bring some of them together to talk about their experiences. We know that the situation in Lambeth has been particularly challenging, as thousands of people find themselves without support and without recourse to public funds, without sufficient food for their families.

But what has it felt like to be witnessing this huge increase in demand for basic essentials? We have asked several people to tell us about their challenges and how they have met the need.

Watch the zoom event here or listen here or read the (rough) transcript below with start time for each speaker

Tracey Ford, JAGS Foundation  52secs Sunday Best programme – those who’ve lost out because they relied on their grandma, sister or aunt for their sunday dinner. Families needing to cook every day – no school meals. SB is ‘cook caribbean’ – virtual cooking show 1-2pm every Sunday showing how to cook traditional rice and chicken. Provision of Sunday Best meal has grown from the first Sunday of 43 meals, to 228 cooked dinners for families, single homeless people living in hostels, less abled people in the community. Organisations are contacting every week with details on families with no recourse to public funds. Hearty, healthy, nutritious hot sunday meal. Numbers still increasing. Buying the food, some donations.

Jojo Sureh, Cook to Care 5.30mins Pre Covid – preventative rehabilitation work with ex young offenders. In 10th week of Cook to Care – piloting rehab programme with HMP Wandsworth when lockdown announced. Programme suspended, so started doing online workshops for young offenders about to leave prison. Basic training – from washing veg to cooking. Left me with 80 meals in my freezer – started providing to locals. Realised that the programme was going to be suspended but also realised that there was a great need in Streatham. First to fourth week 40 – 80 – 150 – 500 meals, now 180-250 meals per day leaving flat. Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and Wandsworth.  Self funded, then Go Fund Me. Once referred, can provide a service throughout to other end, evolved from just food to other services with other charities. Now moved into Marcus Lipton Centre, much easier to co-ordinate volunteers. Hard to access funds initially, but now established, getting external support. People referred, those who cannot access public services from local authority. 15 volunteers on rotation, 5 a day – 2 people cooking, 3 more organising packaging, labelling etc.

Elizabeth Maytum, Norwood and Brixton Food Bank 12.30mins Normally 3 distribution points in Norwood, Brixton and Streatham. Within a day of announcement of lockdown, couldn’t do face to face, moved to warehouse in Streatham. Electronic referrals from partners, pick, pack and deliver. Fed in excess of 8,500 people from end of March to now. 8-10tonnes of food given away each week. Parcels are all individual to need of family. Signposting service too – no recourse to public funds mums, packs for kids etc. Trying to recreate remotely what we would normally do face to face. Barkham Avenue, Streatham – British Gas, loads of vehicles, huge project. Would love not to be there, grateful to campaigns like footballer Rashford getting free school meals. Helpers mostly volunteers, a few paid staff.

Candice James, Loughborough Community Centre at Max Roach 17mins Team of six, deliver a range of children and family services. Lockdown was an anxious time for the parents, the team came together to think about how to keep in touch. Contact calls were not enough, as safeguarding issues were rising. April should have been Holiday Play Project, so devised ‘Happy Lunch’, an emergency response project and adaptation of the Holiday Play Project – a free lunch three times a week with play resources. What hadn’t expected was that they would be only engagement with their families – no contact from schools or other children’s centres. Realised that the children loved the contact time, know that home is not a safe place for many of their families. Engaged 71 families and reaching 140 children delivered 4179 lunches, secured funding for next five weeks until adapt into a summer project. Happy Lunch will continue through the whole summer period. Survey – 75% parents reported that they had less money, 55% had less food. Happy Lunch is so much more than a meal. Moved fast, had no funding initially, but pumped everything into this project – proud of workers and their quick response.

Sarah Coyte: Community Engagement Team at Lambeth Council 25mins Quick response by Council – crisis helpline set up on 25th March, food hub set up 27th March at Brixton Rec, not long after that, Black Prince Trust hub set up. 8,000 calls, distributed through hubs (eg children’s centres) 18,500 food packages. Call volume on helpline is decreasing, so demand from individuals is reducing, but not the case through the hubs – ‘bulk requests’. Black Prince Trust now not operational, Brixton Rec still operating. Conversation needed now: how and when we transition from providing food packages to working more supportively to enable voluntary and community sector to do what they do best, with Council’s support. Conversations looking to have with partners to help shape this.

Victoria Sherwin: Myatt’s Fields Project 30mins When lockdown started, stopped volunteering and started growing veg from seed. Distributed seedlings to 200 households. Backyard farming now being developed in unused spaces – using bigger spaces to grow on food for neighbourhoods.

Janie Bickersteth: Incredible Edible Lambeth 32mins Funding from London Community Response Fund enabled IEL to establish a project to help people grow food from home. Now have 200 new growers in the borough, each one is encouraged to hand on seedlings to ten households or people who would value some extra food. Also working with Capital Growth to get more people to grow surplus in their community gardens. 

Virginia Nimarkoh, Lambeth Larder Community Food Resource 34mins Lambeth Larder came out of a pilot action research project Lambeth Food Insecurity project. Connect people to emergency food and other support. Do that by sharing free resources – website and paper directory distributed through networks – food banks, Gp surgeries, children’s centres. During Covid19, none of this distribution possible, so needed to go online, but many of the people who need the resources wouldn’t necessarily have access to digital platforms. Connect different sectors and networks – cross sector response to food poverty – not just food issue, issue of economic deprivation, sectors not talking to each other exacerbates the problem. Mapping new providers, looking at how the sector has changed during Covid19?  Mapping for Change – producing an online map of resources under Covid that are still available for people – including food aid services, community kitchens, connecting groups. Working to strengthen the sector – no volunteer centre in Lambeth, so no immediate place to be connected. This has been a stumbling block during this crisis. As a voluntary sector, we’re all operating separately, need an advocate for us all. Call out to anyone wanting their service listed through the website, the leaflet or the new map.

Q&A

Where did you find funding?

Jojo – self funding and Go Fund Me, monetary donations from public, struggled to access funding through local authority. Long term contract with a church to supply perishable goods.

Tracey – crowdfunded £6000 in 6 weeks. Also funding from Lambeth, LCRF. Constantly looking for funding. More info from Tracey: JAGS Foundation running for 10 years and has received a fair amount of funding, but always fund-raising. Virginia helped find kitchens, 2 community chefs.

Elizabeth – gets food donated from FairShare, City Harvest and Local Greens and part of neighbourly scheme, so can pick up from supermarkets when there is excess food.

What challenges do people see coming and what support do you think people need?

Jojo – idea that Covid is going to end and with that, our services will no longer be needed. This makes me worried that the support I am getting will not be lasting – perception that this is only Covid response work – I had always planned this kind of work. People who could help me long term seem to think that I should only be strategizing through Covid. Now looking at other paths for support as the demand is increasing. Service will continue whilst the need continues. Funding of resources and spaces precarious.

Tracey – a lot of people go unnoticed, they are not being picked up or looked after. This has come about through Covid, but we are not talking about people accessing healthy good food. Lambeth as a borough needs to recognise that not everyone is going to talk about food, not everyone is going to talk about children eating out of the chicken shop, how do we know that children are accessing good food at home? Must be mindful that these are going to be the same problems after Covid.

Tori – Tracey has summed up what we need to be doing – collaboration.

Janie – dealing with escalating numbers, it’s not going away, collectively we need to get this message out, share information. We hope to work collaboratively to address these issues of (food) poverty across the borough.

End of session