North Kensington Meanwhile Gardens
Meanwhile Gardens Community Association
The Meanwhile Garden is a green space in North Kensington, providing lush community gardens, a play hut, skatepark, community gardening, Moroccan garden, volunteering, and play equipment.
Until the early 1970s, the four-acre site was an area of tenement housing that had fallen into such a state of disrepair that the Council (at that time the site came under the aegis of Westminster) issued an order to rehouse the inhabitants and destroy the buildings.
At that point, developers began to circle, wanting to buy the land and put up an expensive housing project that did not reflect the needs of the neighbourhood.
A local sculptor, Jamie McCullough, galvanised the local population and pressed the Council to turn the land into a community garden. Whilst request was taken up in court, the Council issued a Meanwhile Permit to prevent any activity taking place on the site.
Eventually, the community won their case and the Meanwhile Garden Community Association was established. Whilst the land was protected, no funds were allocated for its development. Its metamorphosis from a ravaged site to a community garden began in 1976 with a band of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers and many contributions of plants and materials. And so, the derelict site became the community gardens that are a beloved green lung in this densely populated neighbourhood.
Watch this mini documentary showing the creation of Meanwhile Gardens and its early usage…
Mind’s Wildlife Garden
Mind became a member of the Meanwhile Gardens Community Association over 30 years ago, taking charge of what has become The Wildlife Garden.
A range of horticulture and nature-based programmes take place in this half-acre site. People not only learn the foundation of good gardening practices but are also taught to engage all their senses in a focused and mindful engagement with their surroundings.
Sound – participants are encouraged to explore stillness – listening to birds, the wind rustling leaves, squirrels leaping from branch to branch.
Sight – taking the time to watch insects making their way through the undergrowth or across leaves.
Touch – how different leaves feel to the touch, how does that make you feel, are some pleasurable and some not.
Scent – crush leaves and experience the scent on your fingers, inhale the perfume of flowers, think about how this sensation affects you.
Taste – which leaves can be plucked and eaten, how exciting is it to recognise palatable vegetation.
Horticulture and Wildlife tutor, Deena, explains, “These experiences help our students step out of their mental health diagnosis that often defines them. Eco-therapy helps all of us to engage in a greater reality outside of the confines of self.
Enabling people to sow seeds, transplant seedlings, plant them outdoors, care for the burgeoning plants and witnessing their development is empowering on a personal level and life enhancing in the knowledge that individuals are helping to beautify a community space.
The work we do in the gardens reflects all five elements of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing that mental health practitioners work with.
There is no doubt that our trainees learn about gardening and the natural world, and in doing so, they develop social skills, self-belief and confidence in their ability to learn, process information and share their knowledge with others.
Perhaps some of the best outcomes are evidenced in our permitted workers who begin as trainees, graduate with a Diploma, become volunteers and then paid employees working in the grounds of St. Charles Hospital on a weekly basis.”
Author: Stewart Gillespie
Posted on: 11th May 2021