Bedfords Park Walled Garden
Bedfords Park Walled Garden is a community-focused food growing space on the edge of London. After initially seeing the site CLEAR VILLAGE founder Thomas Ermacora helped bring local stakeholders together to construct a vision for the garden’s future.
The walled garden was a symbol of horticultural innovation in its heyday and operated as a nursery and food-growing site from the 1770s until it was forced to close in 1999. Reconnecting with the natural world is what Thomas sees as an essential element in tackling societal barriers – gardens are for everyone.
CLEAR VILLAGE became involved after being asked by the Friends of Bedfords Park (FOBP) to engage the community and use design thinking in the garden’s regeneration. CLEAR VILLAGE has since partnered with both Havering Council and the FOBP to lead the revitalization efforts. Since then we have conducted participatory design labs with the community to determine the future plan for the garden, led on fundraising and managed renovation works.
Thanks to generous grants from a range of organisations (BIG Lottery Local Food, SIB Group and Veolia’s Environmental Trust) we have almost fully restored the garden back to a safe and useful place with many of the historical features renovated. For example, 320m of the 3.5 meter high garden walls have been renovated or rebuilt. We have installed 70 meters of lean-to-glasshouses and cold frames and the historic pineapple and fern houses have been newly built and being completed with planting. The old coal bunker has a new purpose holding our harvested water and the original Georgian well is in full working order. Through a recent Veolia grant we will soon be replacing the 4m high gates and working on the paths to make the site as accessible as possible. And most importantly, with the help of our volunteers we have cleared over 3000m2 of growing space and grown around 576 kilos of organic produce last year. From Spring 2015 there will be a shop open on site selling the produce.
We have also organised a range of community activities. For example, last Summer we organised our first Grow>Cook>Eat programme in our new class room. About 25 school children learned about food; how to grow it, how to cook it and what makes food healthy or unhealthy.
2015 is the first year of a new phase for the garden. We have recently received funding from the BIG Lottery’s Reaching Communities Fund to further develop our community programmes to make real impact to the lives of our beneficiary groups. We will also be working hard to develop new income streams to make the garden financially sustainable and ready for handing over to community management in 2018.