These days we hear in the media of so many problems that it seems hard to know where to start to find the solutions. Nature declining fast. Climate change. Austerity. 3 million people going to foodbanks and 8 million plus people in “food insecurity”. A lack of community cohesion. Loneliness.
I could go on, but then you might not read on!
The issues may be daunting and of course, no magic solutions exist. However, one local initiative I know from my own small involvement plays its noble part on all these fronts to some extent, and inspires the thought that a better, more sustainable future is possible.
A few years back, Sustainable Merton, a community environmental charity, took over an abandoned corner of an allotment next to the National Trust’s Morden Hall Park in south west London. After great hard work, the Phipps Bridge Community Garden is now flourishing.
I first attended in April 2017 for Capital Growth’s “The Big Dig” and loved the camaraderie among the diverse group of people toiling to get the ground into shape for the array of veggies the plot would nourish later in the season.
I took that summer off and became a regular at the Wednesday Community Garden sessions. OK, the homemade cake was a big draw, but so was the banter and the chance to get to know all sorts of people in a space where all are genuinely welcome. What joy to spend time out of doors and to actually make things grow- and then eat them!
We harvested wheelbarrow loads of courgettes and potatoes, runner beans by the sack load, and later on sweetcorn and squashes. Those who attended shared out the spoils, with the rest often going to local food projects. We used no pesticides or herbicides, and over the years our two huge compost heaps had gradually enriched the soil. As such, our endeavours were productive but friendly to the bugs, bees and birds sharing our little corner of London.
I know this project, however inspiring, cannot solve the world’s problems, and is just a drop in the ocean, you might say, but the ocean is made from drops of water. Put enough of them together….
Working at Link this year has helped me to think more about the policies we need to turn around nature’s decline, and indeed to tackle some of our society’s greatest social ills in doing so. I am not the first to suspect that often the causes and solutions to our environmental and social problems go together.
Such initiatives as the one at Phipps Bridge chime with Link’s calls for sustainable, nature friendly use of our land and for enhancement of our soils. Our garden already makes good on the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan aspirations to improve people’s health by using green spaces, and to green our towns and cities.
Phipps Bridge- and indeed my work at Link- give me a sense of optimism that we can work together to find better, sustainable ways of living and meeting our needs, sometimes even whilst having fun and eating cake!
PS: I am a “Community Champion” at Sustainable Merton, who do all sorts of great things. If you would like to find out more please go to http://www.sustainablemerton.org/
Dan Pescod, Head of Policy and Campaigns, Wildlife & Countryside Link
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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