In 2013 Fiona Law and Diana Linskey with a few friends formally set up the Bandstand Beds Association with help to set up from The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) towards insurance. This followed a year (2012) in which Fiona and friends from Incredible Edible Lambeth and South London Master Gardeners (Diana was one of these) started growing crops in raised beds by the bandstand café, La Baita. The beds were donated and built by Victor Chin-Kit, the then Parks manager for Clapham Common as he was keen to see some vegetable growing on Clapham Common. He also helped organise some compost giveaways on the Common using the compost made on the green waste site on Windmill Drive. These were much appreciated by local community gardeners. Fiona also ran a Chelsea Fringe project – the Squash and Bean Swap, linking with other Lambeth community gardens.
Most of the other large green spaces in Lambeth already had community gardening hubs in one form or another – Brockwell Community Greenhouses, Myatts Fields Park, and Streatham Common Rookery. Clapham had no obvious place for such community growing, but it did have keen gardeners wanting to have a go and change this.
The London Borough of Lambeth (LBL) who manage the Common were keen to support some community gardening and followed up the opportunity to use the raised beds at the Bandstand with an offer for us to take on some unloved and neglected space in front of the toilet block, near what had been the One O’Clock Club and now the Spinney Nursery. Hence this new growing space was named Spinney Beds. This is a slightly shaded site due to the large plane trees and so we decided to go for growing squash and beans in year one.
David Dandridge became Chair in February 2014, taking over from Fiona. The following spring permanent crops of blackcurrants, gooseberries, and rhubarb were planted at The Spinney and our flourishing beds began to attract more members.
More recently, in 2015, we worked with LBL again to bring part of ‘the dump’ — the green-waste depot on Windmill Drive — back into community use. With in-kind support from LBL, money from the Environmental Impact Fund (EIF) and grant funding from Awards for All, Love Your Roots, and Capital Clean Up we have been able to install a polytunnel and raised beds to create the food-growing corner on the former piece of waste land.
We have also received support from the Clapham Business Improvement District (BID) who are keen to green Clapham and have paid £2000 towards a new shipping container to replace the one on site we currently use, which is no longer fit for purpose. The remaining £1800 of cost has been raised thorough donations.
The new community garden has attracted a great deal of interest from local residents who are enthusiastic about getting involved in food growing. When we began work to reclaim part of ‘the dump’ in 2015 we had just 10 members. At the end of our first growing season a year later this had risen to more than 80.
Lambeth Council have now agreed to allow us to reclaim another section of the green waste site, doubling the size of the community garden.
To sum it up, we’ve done some really cool things. And we want these activities to continue and grow so that the people local to the Common can get more advice and growing experience, as well as sharing their knowledge and experience. If you have any ideas you’d like to share with us please get in touch with us!
David Dandridge, Chair;
Jane Clark, Secretary;
Diana Linskey, Treasurer;
Sarah Wilson, Membership Secretary