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Work begins on Valentines Park Forest Garden at last!

Updated: Jan 12

About our Forest garden…..

We got the go ahead to start work our forest garden in Valentines Park, earlier this month, from Vision and are using a fabulous grant from the London Mayor’s Grow Back Greener Grant. We are grateful to Simon Litt, the Parks Manager for his support. So last week, on Monday 14th December 2020, we did our first day of action with 20 volunteers and we signed up 18 new recruits! We worked despite facing Covid restrictions of 6 people on site at a time and observing social distancing. We have such a vision for this project and we want lots of our lovely neighbours to get involved but we have to be careful as we move forward during Covid-19.

Over the autumn a group of us from Transition Ilford had been learning online about what is a forest garden and how to go about making it. Our teacher was Rakesh from Goodmayes who is an experienced forest garden trainer.

About the Swales on our Forest garden….

Our first job was to dig a swale. This is a kind of ditch that enables water to be held on the site and nutrients to be captured which can nourish the tree saplings we are intending to plant. We did not want to face the problem we had of 400 saplings we planted in the old pitch and putt earlier in February 2020: the saplings died because of the unpredictable droughts that now affect even London in our hot summers.

But this site is good! It is at the bottom of the hill, where the Cranbrook begins to flow again after being underground for so long.  And we love the site because so many people pass by and there’s so much interest.  We think it is going to be a real community meeting space. 

The site is close to the Brisbane Rd entrance


Over the day over 15 people helped


We are close to busy pathways and had conversations with around 35 people


This is what the swale looked like after we had put in woodchip to stop people falling in and to build nutrients in the basin


The piled up side is called the berm and we will be holding a planting activity to put in useful ground cover plants

Here are some you tube clips ,showing how we dug the swale: – What is a swale and how to make one https://youtu.be/T0YzEt7jxgQ, Making the edges of the swale https://youtu.be/4G6tzEZbkyY, Mulching the swale and enjoying the rain https://youtu.be/T0YzEt7jxgQ\

As you can see, it was a lovely sunny warm December day as we did our work. But in the afternoon as we ferried the wood chip from Perth Road Car Park entrance, the rain came down in buckets and those who were left got drenched. But that was all very good for the swale. We want it to trap the water, to be available to our new plants.

Our plan had been to plant the native saplings we got free of charge from the Woodland Trust on 21st December, to celebrate the Winter Solstice.  However because of Tier 4 we can’t go ahead with the community planting rota we had planned and will be running the event with just 2 on site. 

As soon as we return to Tier 3 or below we will organise another planting event.  Want to find out more? Sign up at ilfordtransition@gmail.com for news about the Forest Garden project, the Community Energy project, the Food Coop and more.

(Peter Musgrave)

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