When local residents Lloyd Jeans, Myanah Saunders, Paul and Karin Holloway, Yasmine Curpen and Hugh Barnard discovered a rundown site close to the town centre, they recognised the area had potential to become a community garden.
Eight years later, after a fight for the lease and a two-year consultation with local people, Myanah believes their dream space is making a major contribution to life in the area.
Lloyd explained how it all started: “The idea of a community garden was born in April 2013, engendered by local opposition from ‘Save Forest Gate’ to a proposal to build a 26-storey tower block on the site.
“We spent two years consulting with the local community to plan our dream space while we fought for the lease. We finally succeeded in May 2015, and that’s when the hard work began.
“When we first found the site we never imagined the garden would become so special. As well as being a peaceful haven for wildlife and a place for relaxing and meeting friends, it has become somewhere where people can make new friends and develop new interests.
“The success of the garden is entirely down to the efforts of the many volunteers, who are there summer and winter, whatever the weather.”
Forest Gate Community Garden is a charitable organisation that aims to create and maintain green spaces for wildlife, wellbeing, plants and people.
They are involved with local community groups including the Magpie Project (for homeless families with young children), the Forest Gate Festival, Forest Gayte Pride, Bloomin’ Forest Gate, UCL Stratford Campus, Woodgrange Market, Forest Arts and Newham Climate Collective. They also take referrals from GP social prescribers and mental health services.
Their sub group, Green Shoots, is committed to improving the local environment by working alongside local residents to maintain street planters and plant up bare spaces.
Local musician and artist Paul Romane is an occasional van driver and regular visitor to the garden. “It’s a great community resource and I admire the work that the volunteers put in. It’s been a pleasure to watch the garden grow both as a garden and as a place where people can meet and learn about gardening. The garden has given space for artists and musicians to teach and play.”
The land is owned by the London Borough of Newham. They have plans to redevelop the area into housing. Forest Gate Community Garden hopes to have the lease renewed in May 2025, however, if this is not successful they may have to look for another site.
136 Earlham Grove, London E7 9AS
Fridays and Saturdays 10am to 3pm, Summer 10am to 12pm on Sundays. Two volunteers are always on site to ensure public safety, welcome visitors, open and lock up. The Garden is also available for hire at a small fee.