Roots in the community

09 March 2018

Gardening improves wellbeing and even combats loneliness several recent studies have shown. Those benefits were clearly visible at the launch of the community kitchen garden at TheClementJames Centre and St Clement and St James Church today ( Thursday 8 March. )

The North Kensington centre and church played a very special role following last June’s Grenfell Tower tragedy. The centre’s garden was a safe space for survivors and evacuees. Now that garden has been expanded with support from the Council the centre has a brand new kitchen garden.

The kitchen garden is a quiet space at which local people can enjoy the well documented therapeutic effects of gardening.

TheClementJames Centre is one of four new kitchen gardens added to the borough’s 80 kitchen community gardens, no small achievement for an inner-London densely populated borough.

Kensington and Chelsea’s kitchen garden project started nearly a decade ago in 2009 in North Kensington and is one of the area’s community successes. Green in vision and execution it started as a way to transform disused, neglected spaces into community resources where local residents can grow vegetables and herbs and even reduce their food miles and carbon footprint.

But the other social dividends are those already known to many gardeners and include combating loneliness as neighbours exchanged their tips and knowledge and enjoyed the physical benefits whatever their level of ability. Gardening is a great leveller and able bodied and those with mobility issues alike are all equal in the kitchen gardens because of the raised, accessible beds.

After the recent icy weather BBC’s The Instant Gardener, Danny Clarke; Council Leader, Cllr Elizabeth Campbell and Council’s head community gardener William Rallison helped local residents welcome in the new season by planting early spring vegetables such as beetroot, onions sets and garlic.

Council Leader, Cllr Elizabeth Campbell, said: “Gardening promotes a great sense of community and is a pathway to tackling feelings of isolation or loneliness.

“This project has linked 100s of people together and encouraged neighbours to get to know one another – that can only be a good thing.

“I came to the opening at TheClementJames Centre’s kitchen garden today not only to see the project in action, but to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of the local community in this area for all the help they have given since the Grenfell Tower tragedy last June.”

Health and Wellbeing coordinator, Lauren Best-Shaw said: “We began in 2016 with a small herb garden and have gone from strength to strength with the support from the community gardeners at RBKC. The group meets to help work on the garden, keep the area tidy, take care of the plants, learn gardening tips … and take home the herbs and vegetables they have grown.

“Members of the community get to volunteer, meet new people, learn new skills and enjoy the benefits of spending time with nature. We hope even more members of the community will be inspired by this to come along and see how they can get involved.”

Instant Gardener, Danny Clarke said: “It’s such a privilege to be invited to the launch of The ClementJames Comunity garden today and to help the community gardeners in someway by imparting a little of my experience.”

“Many of us are aware of the mindfulness of horticulture. But getting physical in the garden through constant lifting digging and stretching provides a total-body workout.”

“It allows us to reap what we sow and connects us with nature in a big way, working wonders for the soul. It’s therefore unsurprising that people who garden have a longer life expectancy than those who don’t.”