Rob Hopkins visits ELL
"a volunteer-led project which aims to help Londoners grow more of their own food. We propagate edible plants which are then used on local growing projects. We teach people how to recognise plants, which parts are edible, how to propagate them, how they are grown in a forest garden and even how to cook with them".
On the day I visited it was pouring with rain, and with it being early March there was not much in the way of plants to be seen, but I made the following short film (slowly getting the hang of it, poor audio in places is due to torrential rain on greenhouse roof) which hopefully captures some of what the project is about. See if you can spot the cameo by a mouse.
I arrived just as they were tidying up after a community meal in the greenhouse where the above was filmed. You can read more about the meal here. The diversity of plants and what is grown at ELL is beautifully captured in this bit from their website about what you might expect in a salad picked for your delectation at different times of year:
Leaves: Yarrow, Land Cress, Giant Red Mustard, Horseradish, Salad Burnet, Chard, Perennial Broccoli, Hops, Violet, Chives, Siberian Purslane, Red Veined Sorrel, Everlasting Onion, Tree Onion.
Flowers: Honesty, Violet, Chives, Sage.
Leaves: Polish Sorrel, Marguerite, Perennial Rocket, Ice Plant, Horseradish, Lime (Tilia), Sweet Cicely, Marjoram, Caucasian Spinach, Fennel, Oxalis, Mint, Lemon Balm, Mallow.
Flowers: Mallow, Turkish Rocket, Rose, Salsify, Calendula.
Fruits: Strawberries, Blackcurrants.
ELL have supplied well over 500 plants to 45 community food growing projects and trained about 120 people. Many people pay for training by volunteering with the project.
Transition Finsbury Park were recently, along with a number of other local organisations, part of a successful £1 million Lottery bid for a project called PACT (which stands for Prepare, Adapt, Connect and Thrive), which is about helping people living and working the Manor House area to deal with the effects of climate change. The project will address issues such as fuel poverty and worklessness, as well as holding community celebrations and giving people more opportunities to have their say on local issues and managing local spaces. Its specific aims are to:
- Increase the awareness and involvement of local residents and organisations to make ‘headline’ climate change issues relevant to their everyday lives
- Identify and support vulnerable people and those most at risk from extreme weather, linking them up with PACT Champions – a network of local volunteers
- Assess and make homes and buildings in the area as energy- and resource-efficient as possible
- Look at how to create a sustainable, good value local food supply
- Ensure the Accord between the Hackney and Haringey Councils joins up key relevant statutory services, with the aim of maximising resilience in our project area and getting best value
For ELL, the PACT involvement has led to increased funding for its accredited training courses, and for a number of paid roles. If you are passing, do drop in for their workdays which are Monday and Friday, with a shared lunch at 1pm. You'll find directions here, and information on becoming a volunteer here.