Richmond Road Pocket Park

Waltham Forest Heroes of Horticulture: Celia James

Forest Flora has a socially distant chat with Celia James who leads band of volunteers that keep Richmond Road Pocket Park looking show garden worthy.

How did you get involved with your community garden?

The Council constructed a pocket park in the street opposite my house. A considerable number of people objected to it and the planters were left unplanted for well over a year. I had always taken the view that the planters would never be removed and that we should try to ensure that we had an input into the way it looked. After so long the area was looking neglected and uninspiring.

On a trip to Walthamstow Village l saw a lady who turned out to be Helen Lerner, planting a tree pit and asked her if she could give me any tips on how l and my neighbours could become involved in improving the appearance of our new(ish) pocket park. With Helen’s guidance l soon found myself the Council’s lead contact for maintaining the pocket park.

What’s your favorite part of the work you do with the community garden?

My favourite part of the work has been seeing people from the local community meeting and getting to know each other. So much so, that we had a get together in November at the local pub which was well attended and enjoyed by all.

And your least favorite?

My least favourite aspect of the responsibility l now have is the worry about getting the planters and beds watered. We have a water butt and, in the past have had rotas but it is all a bit “hit and miss” and l do lose sleep over it sometimes.

When you aren’t working on Richmond Road Pocket Park, what is a typical day like?

Although retired for a couple of years now, for past clients l still take on the occasional interior design projects. I have an art studio in which l spend time with two of my grandchildren who come to Art Club and from time to time another small group of local arts enthusiasts who like to practice their drawing skills. Before Corona virus l was learning to play bridge and was an enthusiastic dancer of Argentine tango.

Do you have any formal horticultural training?

I’ve had zero horticultural training.

What does it take to be good at keeping the team motivated?

To keep the team motivated l need to feel motivated myself. The constant challenge in the summer regarding keeping the plants watered makes it hard sometimes.

What are the skills that you would like to develop next?

I’m not too concerned about developing skills but I’d like to find another way for the plants to be watered.

Who is your horticultural hero?

My horticultural hero? Maybe the late David Austin. An excellent rose takes some beating.

What do you think the biggest challenge is to community gardening at the moment

Lockdown has made it difficult to keep the park maintenance going. About 5 of us work on the pocket park from time to time.

How do you think the neighborhood, beyond the volunteers, engages with your community garden?

Generally, people love the pocket park. Small children run up and down amongst the planters as if they are hiding in a maze. We have a notice board which people frequently stop to read. Lockdown has brought a lot of people out for their daily breath of fresh air, and for many, a first time visit to our road. Most of the day there’s a trickle of people walking around the planters, smelling the plants and reading the information we have posted. Until the recent drought the park, after 3 years, was looking nicely established and providing a good splash of colour.

Mark Cummings
Celia James
Mark Cummings
Mark Cummings