The Good Life Garden Project
A three-year programme to transform hostel yards into forest gardens broke ground this week, as work started at SHP’s first outdoor classroom.
The SHP Good Life Garden Project will see 40 growing spaces sprouting throughout London, turning SHP gardens into training hubs where clients will take responsibility for their own plants, absorb knowledge of animal husbandry and learn other outdoor activities like knot tying and fire building.
“It’s called The Good Life Garden because it’s more than gardening,” Green Coordinator Drew Woodhouse said.
Funded for three years by the City Bridge Trust and the Ashden Trust (part of Sainsbury’s Charities), the project will collaborate with SHP’s services in Waltham Forest, Newham, Redbridge, Hackney, Islington, Camden, Brent and Westminster.
Drew and a group of hardworking set to work at one of SHP’s hostels this week, enhancing the garden where one resident, George, has been growing a span of crops since March, including potatoes, onions, lettuce, carrots, shallots and strawberries.
After working on the railway for ten years clearing embankments, George has a good knowledge of the tools and methods necessary to grow a garden. Drew hopes to make clients like George peer green mentors, offering advice and guidance at the different gardens across the service.
“I’ve always enjoyed gardening. It’s therapeutic,” George said. “I hope to help others and guide them into whatever and teach them all I know about gardens.”
Another resident Scott is growing 40-50 of seedlings to sell at SHP’s Good Life Stall at the Whitecross Street Party.
“I thought it was interesting and thought it would be good to do. It’s good motivation and it helps keep away global warming,” he said.
Maintaining a healthy garden – especially 40 healthy gardens – is hard work, but Drew thinks that with a surge of effort in the initial stages, The Good Life Garden Project will thrive.
“With all these projects there’s always a huge initial investment of time at first and then it keeps building,” Drew said. “The idea is that we need to increase year on year from where we are now.”
The work day at Highbury New Park was just the first of many across the service, but Drew likes to end each one in the same fashion – with a barbecue.
“It’s the breaking bread principle. I’ve found that if people have eaten together and sat down around a fire together, they are already comfortable with each other,” he said. “The moment you put a fire down, no matter where you are, everyone just stops and watches it. That’s the point – we all come together and we work hard and then we get to eat.”
As The Good Life Garden Project progresses, Drew plans to reach out to the community through a community volunteers and a weekly market stall.
“If they’ve got a green space and they want to make the most of it, then they should get in touch with me. Anyone who is really keen on gardening should give it a go,” Drew said. “We need a lot of people just to sow seeds for us and that will be a good place to start. It’s always good to do a day’s work outside. It always makes you feel good.”
For seeds and compost, or to volunteer in The Good Life Gardens, contact Drew on 07772991532 or email@example.com.