Thursday, 11 February 2010

the wasteland

A little pleasure garden is rising out of the rubbish and brambles on the North Street industrial estate. In the marginal land between a building that used to house the fire brigade and the walled-in river, a patch is being tended, tenderly, by a few people thrown together through the love of it. It’s a community garden in the making, so everyone’s welcome. On the first day we picked up the litter and cut back the brambles. The stronger among us hoisted logs to make a hexagonal raised keyhole bed. At the next session we planted strawberries, raspberries and an artichoke in it and made some paths using an old pile of woodchip. A little boy pitched in with his bucket and spade. An artist made a path around a welcoming mound by the entrance, on which we’ll plant crocuses, primroses and forget-me-nots. Soon we’ll make a swing, a fire pit and somewhere to sit, and a willow dome for the children, all out of scraps and unwanted things. A friend is running a biodynamic compost making workshop there soon, which will help revitalise the polluted soil. It’s becoming a place of beauty and intention.

Last week’s Costing the Earth spent 30 minutes covering the New Diggers, a new wave of people reclaiming unused land all over Britain in order to feed themselves. It’s a visceral collective response to climate change and peak oil, a move to empower ourselves in the face of uncertainty.

We all garden for different reasons, and this patch is special to me because of the people I am working with and because I love marginal places, derelict land where nature shows up through the cracks. That’s the reason why I never pay to visit National Trust gardens and the like; to me they’re sterile, forced arrangements in comparison. No, the wild places, the edges, are where it’s all happening. Last night’s totally gorgeous Natural World focused on the Wild Places of Essex. And there are plenty all around Lewes, when you start to look. From the moss on a wall to the tall grasses on the mounts and the wild patches near the castle, nature is constantly reasserting herself; you can never keep her down, never tame her. So we’re helping her along, a bit of Earth repair in our little Pop-Up garden, a place where people can be together and do what comes naturally.

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