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The site for London Grown. Photo by Clare Flaxen

Tucked away at the end of an unassuming residential cul-de-sac off the dual carriage way of the Great Cambridge Road in Haringey, there is a hidden secret garden.

But not the kind you might think.

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Clearing the brambles. Photo by Clare Flaxen

It’s a warm and sunny day and volunteers are clearing mountains of brambles that have taken over after years of neglect. This 7-acre disused plot of land is quietly being turned into a community market garden and education hub by London Grown, a worker’s co-operative run by volunteers.

Holly, one of the members, takes me round the site. The land has been given to them by Haringey Council on a ten year lease for “peppercorn rent,” she tells me.

Originally allotments, the land became sports fields for schools in Haringey. Then the boundaries shifted and the schools became Enfield run.

There was little incentive for Haringey to keep maintaining the land and it was soon forgotten. For 25 years. You just about make out the markings where the tennis courts used to be.

The days tasks. Photo by Clare Falxen

The days tasks. Photo by Clare Flaxen

When London Grown took over, last April, they had to machete their way through the undergrowth and trees to start restoring it to its former, usable state.

Except this time, instead of PE lessons, the site will be used to grow organic vegetables and fruit for the local population to buy at affordable prices.

London Grown is a non-profit organisation, currently made up of five hard working horticulturists (the word grafters comes to mind), all on a voluntary basis with some additional help from “honorary members”.

They plan to distribute their produce through an on-site farm stall and via Crop Drop, Haringey’s local, seasonal veg box scheme, who have linked up with London Grown to source more local produce for their boxes, says Laura Goodman, Crop Drop’s operations manager.

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Everyone’s welcome. Photo by Clare Flaxen

They are hoping London Grown will have the capacity to grow things specifically for them, such as tomatoes and salad leaves.

There’s no cold storage, so the turnaround has to be fast. The closer it’s grown the fresher and better it will be.

“If you’re living in London, local has to mean a lot of produce coming from Kent and Essex. But there are certain things that are better coming from much more locally,” she says.

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Volunteers looking at plans for the site. Photo by Clare Flaxen

The tag line for Crop Drop is “Local Food for People Not Profit” and it’s an ideology London Grown encompasses too. People are far more likely to sign up for local produce if they know it’s been grown on their doorstep, in Haringey.

The London Grown site, as well as supplying some of the produce, will be a pick up point for Crop Drop customers. They also plan to have a farm stall where anyone can drop in to buy whatever is on sale that day.

Both groups feel passionately that organic veg is for everyone. “Veg bags work out cheaper than buying equivalent vegetables in supermarkets,” says Laura.

So far the initiative has had a resoundingly positive response from the local community.

London Grown have leafleted the surrounding streets, telling people about the project and inviting them in for blackberry picking and opportunities to see what’s going on. They’ve had neighbours lending gardening tools and offering support.

People are excited to see a fly tipping prone stretch of wasteland being brought back to its full potential.

And London Grown has plans for the site besides growing food. They’ve been mulling over ideas to run a forest school in the mature trees that surround the site, with an area of land dedicated to children, as well as workshops and courses.

Partly funded by Enfield Council and EMU (Enfield Mental Health Users Group) they also plan to run supported sessional work groups for their mental health services users.

Two of the members, Simon and Dunya, currently work in Haringey schools running food growing projects and there’s the potential to link projects up. It has all the signs of becoming a very exciting new community project.

With crops of potatoes, kale, spinach and chard due to be put in next spring, polytunnels for cucumbers and tomatoes, herbs and nettles being harvested to make herbal teas to sell, fruit trees to be planted and a beehive for local honey, Haringey living is about to get a whole lot tastier.

Words and photos by Clare Flaxen

If you fancy lending a helping hand, London Grown runs volunteer days on Mondays throughout the year. Check out their Facebook page or email them
Or
Visit the Crop Drop website for details of how to get your local veg
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