One of my earliest ‘gardening’ memories is learning how to take soft wood cuttings with my grandfather. In Norfolk, where I lived as child, my mum had a garden with a vegetable patch. I wasn’t that interested helping out but never said no to harvesting (and eating) the vegetables (I have a lifelong love of vegetables as a result).
When I was a teenager my family moved to a house with an apple, pear and plum orchard, planted with individual varieties so I got a taste for grenadier plums, greengages, robin pears and spartan apples. My mum’s vegetable patch grew larger (and tastier) with loganberries, raspberries and gooseberries. We also had a little greenhouse where my mum grew fabulous tomatoes.
Going off to university was a turning point for me. I took lots of plants with me and managed to keep them alive in my cramped student accommodation. I had caught the gardening bug! In the small garden where I lived as a student, we grew beans and salads and helped ourselves to apples from the orchard next door (an activity traditionally known as ‘scrumping’). Ask me about apple recipes! I became expert in including them in every meal from: pork and apple casserole, apple pies, apple crumble; adding in many different spices to ring the changes.
After living in Kentish Town in a garden flat for 20 years, I now call myself a North Londoner. I loved my garden in Kentish Town, building a pond, watching the frogs for hours, success with no-dig vegetable growing (caging the area to stop the pesky cats making full use of the lovely friable soil).
Now I live in Archway and have a rooftop garden. This has really tested my gardening skills and kept me fit moving soil up and down the stairs. I couldn’t have started gardening on the rooftop without the help of my husband Matthew. Without him I would have had to scale back my ‘rooftop growing’ ambitions (thanks Mathew – keep up the good work!!)
While worked in Interior Design for many years, I have always believed in the positive benefits of volunteering. I started volunteering as a Community Mediator and as a Perinatal Befriender, before becoming involved in growing projects in Islington. At Duval House, an assisted living home, I was the volunteer food grower supporting the elderly residents to make the most of their garden, growing gooseberries, strawberries, tomatoes and salads leaves. We had lots of lovely chats at their coffee mornings and I encouraged inexperienced gardeners to have a go. And if gardening wasn’t their thing at least they could enjoy the food we grew and the socialising outdoors. Our annual event of making tomato chutney was always a great success.
Since spring 2018 I’ve been a member of the St John’s Way Medical Centre Patient Participation Group, promoting wellbeing through a ‘Grow for Health’ project originally started on the Girdlestone Estate and then relocating to Partington Community Garden on the Elthorne Estate. This is where I first discovered Octopus; volunteering with them to develop Partington. I loved volunteering with Octopus and got involved with different activities and projects where I was then able to get some paid work offering ‘workshops’ on the Octopus We Can Grow programme. We had great plans for Partington last year but unfortunately, due to the pandemic, these were put on hold. This year marks a new beginning and I’m looking forward to being part of the Octopus Urban Growing team, working in partnership with local people to bring this lovely space back to life and grow fresh food for Caxton House Community Food Hub.
I joined Octopus Community Network in November 2020 running the Community Plant Nursery growing sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m looking forward to meeting, working with and supporting lots of new people in Islington to discover local food growing; aiming to help reduce food insecurity within the borough. It’s the people in Islington and the growing we can do together that keeps me motivated and enjoying life.