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Growing community roots

A new community growing space that was once a derelict piece of land is rapidly taking shape and attracting visitors.

The urban garden project in Western Road, Southall, was something of a blank canvas when Around Ealing visited the site in springtime last year. Now the site is showing significant signs of growth and development, as was seen by the Leader and deputy leader of the council on a recent visit.

Thanks to the Southall Community Alliance (SCA), which is leading on the project, Ealing Council, which owns the land, and with the support of other local groups and organisations, including Southall Transition, Ealing Allotments Partnership, Feeding Ealing and LAGER Can, the space is already serving the community.

‘The magic of volunteers’

Janpal Basran, director of SCA, said: “Something like this doesn’t happen without the magic of volunteers, so as well as local residents coming to help, we’ve had lots of organisations come and really put in a shift.

“We’ve made a huge amount of progress. Our ultimate vision is to develop a site for the community, which they can enjoy for leisure, food growing and education. The education is about how we can make best use of our green spaces to grow food and get people coming together as a community.”

When the project first began there was a lot of hard work needed to get the site cleared. It had been neglected for a number of years and had become a dumping ground for rubbish.

Paul Carter, chairman of the Ealing Allotments Partnership, said: “Because the site was neglected for so long, some days were tougher than others getting it ready. There was glass, debris, bits of motorbike and we even unearthed a Spitting Image model of Margaret Thatcher. Looking back at photos from 12 months ago and seeing what it’s like now gives us a big lift, it reminds us how far we’ve come.”

The site now boasts a polytunnel, raised beds for growing, the beginnings of an orchard that will be dripping in fruit and community allotment spaces.

Mani Dhanda, chairman of Southall Transition, said: “As spring rolls round we can start growing and later on this year we’ll have our first harvest and that will go to food banks, local charities, whoever needs the food – that’s who we’re growing it for.”

Plant to plate

Paul Carter added: “What we want to do is try and encourage people to be able to see that full cycle of propagation in the first instance and understand how those crops become food that’s nutritional that people want to eat.”

Local school children have already started visiting the garden, to learn about the growing process and muck in and do some planting too.

Ealing Council leader, Peter Mason, said: “Supporting projects like this is part of our commitment to give residents greater access to green spaces and clean air. The fact that so many people have given their time to create this space just goes to show how much this is needed in the community.”

‘Grow local’

Councillor Deirdre Costigan, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for climate action, added: “It was brilliant to come down and take part in one of the school visits and see how enthusiastic everyone was about the project.

“We promised to create 10 new community growing spaces in Ealing and with Western Road community garden we’ve already got to 5, halfway to our goal.

“These new community gardens are a fantastic way of growing food locally, reducing our carbon footprint and providing a home for wildlife.”

While there is still plenty to do, including laying paths to make the site wheelchair-accessible, the transformation so far is quite spectacular.

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