Realising a dream like this one requires a little hope, a lot of faith and it seems a whole load of paperwork. Encouraged by the light-footedness of Incredible Edible Todmorden where they just started planting up bits of wasteland with veg, we thought once we had the site and a bit of money for some materials we could get on with creating our garden. But not so – we first need to apply to the council for planning consent for change of use, (from fly-tipped dereliction to beautiful garden – hopefully not a difficult planning decision for Hastings development control). Red tape it may be but we need this project on a firm legal footing if it is going to become the winning formula we envisage for tackling the town’s derelict sites. So dusting off my scale rule and set square, I have been preparing some simple plans and answering a multitude of mostly non-applicable questions, (vehicle access, waste disposal, design of windows etc etc). The planning process has been helpful however, in focusing our minds on the tricky issue of boundary fencing. To fence or not to fence? That is the question. We want an open garden which is welcoming to all, but if left unfenced will we find ourselves knee-deep in fly-tipping and dog poo? Or worse – car parking? We have plumped for a low fence. It won’t spoil the open feel of the site but will provide a degree of protection. So the application is now in and a very helpful planner at the council told me it should take about 6 weeks for a decision to be made. That takes us to about the 10th May. We can get on with clearing the site of rubbish and preparing it for the garden before this but once we have planning consent we can really start to create the garden. So the countdown begins…
At this stage in the project we are surrounded by lists. Sometimes making the list is enough to calm the mind but there’s nothing quite like giving it a nice big tick. Yesterday I popped in to see the nice people at Chessington Tyres at the top of Norman Road. They’ve agreed to give us old tyres to stack as containers for growing our fruit trees and vegetables. big tick. I woke up feeling listless (sorry) worrying about plant supports. We need to ask people to donate any bamboo canes, pea sticks, trellis or garden string they have no use for and having written this I’m giving it a small tick.
To be a gardener you need a lot of patience but we were tired of talking about what we could do. We needed TO DO. We got all our seeds together two weeks ago with a very useful list about the longevity of different varieties – it was educational. Some seeds last 2 years and others 8-10. We divvied up those that could be sown early and I planted onion sets, tomatoes, marigolds and chilli peppers. Well, its the beginnings of a curry….with a garland!
Okay, I’ll admit you have to use your imagination bit here, but once you do it really is the most fabulous site for a community garden. It has a south facing wall at the north end – ideal for a greenhouse of sorts, buildings to the east with the owner’s permission for water butts off 4 roof tops and a road for easy access.
It was a dark and stormy November night…..at the Wonky WI, when the community growing idea first popped into our heads. “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could get hold of a plot of derelict land and make a flourishing neighbourhood fruit and vegetable garden for everybody who lives right in the middle of St Leonards on Sea?”
We met up, drank coffee, looked at potential sites, trawled the internet for success stories and our commitment grew. IF became WHEN and the adventure began.