Haringey Community Press

Haringey Community Press

The thriving community garden

The thriving community garden

Hero for The thriving community garden
A young volunteer Credit: Joanna Yeung

Christina Egan gets an update from Joanna Yeung, the founder of Weir Hall Road Open Community Space, a year on from when the citizen gardening project began.

Weymark Estate resident Joanna Yeung started realising her vision of an organic and sustainable community garden during the pandemic.

She rallied people to pick litter from the forgotten strip of weeds, brambles, and mounds of garbage so dense that not even nettles grew there.

“It was about cleansing,” she explains, “about restoring nature”. Joanna even welcomes any dormant weeds emerging: “Let the garden communicate to us.”

The large faces of sunflowers greeting you by the high green fence have sprung up from the compost heaped up there, as has the buddleia feeding butterflies and bees.

No money changes hands here, everything you see at Weir Hall Road Open Community Space is donated or recycled. Seeds and plants were brought in by volunteers and well-wishers. Spades and shears came from the heirs of a passionate gardener; the woodchips on the paths from tree surgeons; and the saplings for 30 native trees from the campaign: I Dig Trees.

The land is owned by Haringey Council, but the labour is contributed by volunteers from the neighbourhood. Since last year, the team has tripled – they have built compost bins and installed a wormery in an old bathtub. They also carry water to their plots and are developing techniques to harvest the rain and dew. The team have turned the wasteland into a welcoming space for wildlife and people, and they have taken up the challenge of negotiating for solar lighting and a system for harvesting water.

What was once a toxic thicket is being transformed into an oasis of cheerful poppies and cornflowers, juicy spinach and strawberries. The crops have reached out into the wilderness, and the land has turned, as Joanna puts it: “From an antisocial space into a social space.” It’s a space where Joanna was thrilled to see three generations of a family spending time together, working, resting, or playing.

Further aspirations for the community space include an orchard, a berry-picking area, and a secret garden with seats sheltered under willow boughs. The idea is to think beyond your own little plot, beyond your time in this area, even beyond your own lifetime.

The plans for the adjacent Selby Village development, meanwhile, include a footpath and cycle lane right through the 150-metre-long grounds. At this stage, it is unknown if the construction of Selby Village will help or hinder the community project, or the extent to which the tentative gardening of the lockdown can be sustained when London returns to its frantic pace.