Have you noticed the new planters at South Woodford station? Attiya Thanvi explains the culmination of the energy garden project – which was over a year in the making – and invites others to help it grow. Photography by Geoff Wilkinson
In June 2018, while scrolling through Instagram, I came across #undergroundinbloom, introducing me to the NGO Repowering London, which funds greening projects across London stations. I sent a recommendation for them to run a project at South Woodford Station, and then forgot all about it. In August 2018, I received an email saying they were interested in coming to survey the station and to see if we qualified for funding.
They asked questions about how many volunteers we had. This prompted me to reach out to friends I have met through my tutoring business, and to contact local mums to see if they wanted to get involved. I got a brilliant response. We had a couple of site visits and design meetings with Rhys and Cat from the Energy Garden team to assess the potential of the site so we could design it as well as possible. At this stage, I also encouraged my children and other young people to come along and get stuck in with a local community project. I knew my daughters and their friends were keen to work in the local area following their support of the local homeless community after last year’s adverse weather conditions. The children put their all into the project, contacting their school’s sustainability officer for support and ideas as well.
With everyone’s input, it was decided we wanted something that would help the environment and would also be easy to maintain. We chose some herbs that people are able to pick for their own personal use, which also added a nice aroma to the platform. The design of the garden and choice of plants was finalised by Christmas following our design meetings, and then the wait for permissions began! My daughters continued to keep the community interested by setting up and maintaining a Facebook page and Instagram account.
We were hoping we would be able to start planting by February, which would have been the ideal time to plant before spring, but things are more complicated than they seem. We were informed that since South Woodford Station is an Underground station which is actually above ground, they needed a whole new set of permissions from TfL in order to start the project. Rhys and Cat remained in touch while we waited patiently.
After a couple of cancelled dates, the day finally arrived in mid-July. We were all ready for the installation of the garden on what happened to be one of the hottest days of this summer. Despite this, all our volunteers arrived on time, including four from Good Gym Redbridge.
We started by building planters and lining them, lending good practical experience for our younger volunteers. We were all so excited and enthusiastic as we filled them with soil and plants that we finished well ahead of schedule.
While the first stage of planting is complete, in the second stage we hope to get help with a drip irrigation system and to create a living wall on an empty advertisement board. Another idea is to create and maintain a small book exchange on the westbound platform.
I have been going over regularly with my family to water the plants. We are really looking forward to maintaining and adding to the garden and to see all the plants bloom. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers – we couldn’t have done it without you!