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Urban wasteland in Acton transformed into community garden
A SCRAP of urban wasteland on an Acton housing estate, which was a hotspot for anti-social behaviour, has been transformed into a thriving community garden.
Westcott Park Garden in Perry Avenue on the Westcott Park estate, celebrated its second birthday on Saturday 19 and neighbours were invited a barbecue, apple pressing, bulb planting and a chance to see the garden’s honey bees and chickens.
The project, a joint collaboration between Catalyst Housing, one of the country’s largest housing associations, and Groundwork London, a social and environmental regeneration charity, has certainly come a long way in two years.
Rod Cahill, chief executive of Catalyst, said: “There was a lot of local interest in the project because, previously, this area was just seen as being a nuisance. It used to be horrible – it was overgrown and filled with rubbish. It was an eyesore as far as residents were concerned.”
The area used to be a magnet for anti-social behaviour. Specialist cleaning was initially required when hypodermic needles were found on site.
Now, the garden is popular with children, many of whom volunteered in its development. There is an orchard, plenty of space for them to run around, and opportunities to learn how bees make honey and how to grow vegetables.
The area is not far from the bustling A40 and backs on to the Underground.
In such an urban environment, this contact with nature for children is vital, says Mr Cahill.
“It has really engaged the local children,” he says. “There aren’t many gardens like this in London where children can grow vegetables and be in a countryside environment.
"Earlier on, some of the children were scared of the chickens – which really tells you something!”
Christina Tomkins, who lives nearby, said: “Before, it was just a field filled with muck and rubbish – there was nothing. Now there is fresh honey and vegetables - it is absolutely excellent. It’s such a good thing for local children to learn about food. ”
Asha Osman, has volunteered at the garden for the past two years and is also one of Catalyst’s tenants.
She said: “As we have spent the last two years in a recession, there are many low-income families in the nearby flats, and we thought that, by teaching them how to grow their own food, it will help to maintain their incomes.”
Primary schools use the area to teach children the science behind growing food and gardening. Conservation and livestock-rearing programmes have also been set up.