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Grey to green to rainbow coloured 

Anna Taylor
By Anna Taylor
29th June 2023

Sometimes, it is good to get away from the desk, unfasten the shackles to the computer, and get down to something physical.  The adrenalin that comes from hard manual work, and the satisfaction of seeing solid fruits of your labour and knowing it will have positive community benefits for years to come, is enormous.

On March 14, I volunteered alongside a team from Totum Partners in The UP Garden, an inspirational community project that’s transforming a disused laundry yard into a vibrant community green oasis – drawing people in the surrounding area together.  

The site combines greening of grey space with fun attractions such as table football, a public chess board, and plenty of brightly painted seating and tables to enable people to really enjoy using the new garden.

Together, we created a new wildflower bed near the main pergola – in a spot that has been under concrete until recently.  Within two or three months this will be a riot of colour buzzing with pollinating insects.  Such planting is so much needed in a context where the UK has lost an estimated 60% of its flying insects within the last 20 years.

We also planted a green roof for a new area for parking bikes, scooters and buggies.  This will now be covered in thyme and mint plants at a handy height for easy harvesting.  Demonstrating the value of putting green roofs on sheds, bike stores and other garden storage was something the local group were very keen to do.  Roofs don’t have to be limited in purpose to keeping the area below dry!

We also filled raised planters with gravel and sand at the bottom for drainage and a deep layer of compost above, ready for local people from the surrounding social housing to grow fruit and veg.  The aim is to help cut the food miles involved in eating healthily – while also providing easier access to the physical and mental health benefits of gardening in an area where most homes lack a private green space.

Thank you to Suz, Catherine and the wider UP Garden team.  The transformation you have brought about in what was until recently a neglected, concreted site is incredible and inspirational.  It’s a testament to what could be achieved if more of us took the time to dream about how run-down, wasted spaces across London could be turned into something wonderful.