The Welcome Garden brought back from the brink by Extinction Rebellion

17th Mar 2021

The Welcome Garden

In late 2020, Waltham Forest Extinction Rebellion (XR) were invited to take over the surrounding garden of The Welcome Centre in Walthamstow Village. The building and its space had been out of use during the pandemic and neglected for some years previously. On a wet, grey, March day I met with Isabel Lincoln to hear about their plans and progress. Isabel works as a Forest Schools teacher and gardener.

“When we came the place was taken over by brambles, but we made good progress between lockdowns when we could have up to 6 volunteers. We cleared the overgrown patches and held sessions where volunteers could visualise how the space should be. Luckily, we had broad agreement!

We decided on making planters out of old pallets for the patio area. We plan to make our own greenhouse out of reclaimed materials. We have a forest food area, already planted with saplings. Then, there is a wildlife pond, a dead hedge and area intended for wildlife.”

The progress and enthusiasm is impressive. Isabel puts this down to a surge of interest in outdoor spaces, wildlife and volunteering during the pandemic.

XR are keen to use The Welcome Garden as a base from which to educate, grow and propagate. There will be a lot of focus on edible plants for local people, as well as teaching them about how to grow them. Sharing skills is a big part of their ethos. So rather than press ahead with the greenhouse, they decided to wait until the most people could benefit and learn from being involved in its construction. Through their links to Hackney XR, they have learnt how to make tables and planters from pallets and are keen to pass this knowledge on. If you ever wondered what happens to the pallets and timber left lying around the streets of Walthamstow, then wonder no more. It comes here.

Guerilla gardening is in the DNA of XR. Local guerrilla gardeners have been involved in planting up patches of land that were neglected for years, so it seems natural to use their new base as a nursery for such activities in the future. Potted up saplings of native hedging material lie ready to go. A strip of land leading up to the garden has already been planted with them. There is a real sense of energy and desire to get going.

Isabel is keen to involve local families too. She imagines, “learning, playing and fun” for children in the space. There is an undeniable appetite for such activities and she hopes that The Welcome Garden can provide them. Having been given the lease for free she feels the responsibility to make good use of it for the community and ensure access for as many people as possible. After a great start in adversity, it looks to me like the future of the garden is an exciting one.

If you would like to volunteer, find out more or monitor when the garden will be open, you can find out on Instagram at @xrwelcomegarden, or email Isabel on isabellincoln@gmail.com

Tim Hewitt

The Welcome Garden Walthamstow Extiction Rebellion
The Welcome Garden is a work in progress.
Isabel Lincoln Extinction Rebellion
Isabel Lincoln
Author
Tim Hewitt
Photographer
Tim Hewitt
Editor
Mark Cummings