The Making of The Moat Community Garden
A personal perspective by Valerie, volunteer organiser

My involvement in The Moat Community Garden started in March 2013 when I volunteered to set up a new, resident-led gardening initiative for MEMO, the organisation that manages the estate I have lived on for twenty years. The idea interested me for several reasons; I love gardening, hold a diploma in garden design, am experienced in managing community projects and also because I wanted to feel more part of my own local community.

MEMO publicised the initiative (originally called The Herb Project) in their March 2013 newsletter and twenty-nine residents registered an interest in participating, eight of whom came to the first meeting. These individuals established themselves as the resident-led gardening group who took responsibility for project planning and implement, liaising with Pablo Teixeira of MEMO over logistics and administration. At an early stage the group decided they wanted an allotment-type project in a defined space where they could meet regularly, proposing the unused end of the moat at Wilkie House Courtyard as a suitable location. From this point on the lengthy process of development began but by mid August we had a real functioning community garden, just as we’d imagined it.

During the planning stage there was not much evidence of a garden to be seen in the moat, and from the outside it must have looked as if nothing was happening. In reality we were busy figuring out the various practicalities of getting the garden infrastructure in place, on a low budget and in line with MEMO policies. The first signs of a garden appeared in April in the form of three planters, which we filled with squash, brassicas and spinach donated by Chelsea Physic Garden with which we had formed a relationship involving visits and workshops.

With the garden looking more garden-like other residents wanted to get involved.  And as our membership grew our plans became more ambitious, since we could now convincingly argue the case for more planters. We worked out a budget and were able to secure funding from MEMO, and have funding applications lodged with the CWH Community Chest. So bit-by-bit we were able to make up fourteen planters, one for everyone involved in the project at that point.

Over the course of six months different group members contributed to the project by engaging in: research, sourcing materials and equipment, quantity surveying, costing, design work, technical-drawing, carpentry, soil shifting, pest-proofing, fundraising, budget-writing and art illustration, not to mention the ongoing tasks of watering and weeding. We also delivered gardening workshops to thirty, year 2 children from Millbank Academy who will be returning later this month to harvest their crops. Afterwards they will be invited down to the community centre where their produce will cooked up into a vegetable feast for all to share.

Plans for next year in the garden are already underway. Dwarf fruit trees, bushes, climbers and bulbs will be planted in the deep planters in Autumn and new crops of vegetables and herbs will go in the Spring.  We will be working with Millbank Academy right from the start of the Spring term so that the children have the chance to learn about the whole growing process from seed to harvest.

A few garden dreams are yet to be realised, such as the bench that will make the garden a more enjoyable social space, the compost bin for recycling green waste and a cloche for bringing on seedlings. For this to happen the garden will need more money, so the search is on for further sources of funding.

Creating The Moat Community Garden has involved hard work for all those who are committed to it. And at times it felt as if we were endlessly problem-solving; however, on reflection, those were good times, because it was through overcoming obstacles together that we got to know each other. From a personal point of view I can say that I feel far more connected to my community than I did when I started and I am looking forward to spending many contented hours community gardening in the years to come.

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.”
W.E. Johns, The Passing Show

Acknowledgements
With thanks to Pat Johnson for raising funds from Capital Growth,
Westminster City Ward Councillors and MEMO for Millbank’s first Courtyard vegetable growing project Food for Thought, which ran in 2012 and laid the foundation for the resident-led Moat Community Gardening project.

With thanks to MEMO for supporting the Moat Gardening Group,
the first recent-time resident-led community special interest group and to Pablo Teixeira for facilitating its development.

With thanks to Sainsburys Pimlico Market for their donation of £25 which allowed us to buy teaching resources for the workshops we delivered to Year 2 children from Millbank Academy on July 8th and 15th.

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