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Ambrose Walk Community Garden, London Borough of Tower Hamlets - Malmesbury Residents Association and Tower Hamlets Homes with Wilder Communities

This community garden in East London has been reinvented from being a derelict mass of tarmac in the centre of social housing, to now being a greener space for children to play, locals to come together and has been invaluable throughout the pandemic. Inspired by the agricultural roots of its Bangladeshi community, it also has a planting scheme focusing on edible plants and bringing the local community together.

Where is the project located - please enter full address and postcode?

Ambrose Walk, Bow, London, E3 2AR

 

Who is the developer/client of the project?

Malmesbury Residents Association and Tower Hamlets Homes

 

 

Describe the context of this project and its contribution to the urban life and user experience of the place in 250 words max. and please upload an image of the project in its wider context or a drawing that best situates the project in its location.

 

Ambrose Walk Community Garden is situated in the centre of a social housing estate in East London made up of around 750 homes dating from the 1980s with three schools and an AgeUK centre on its boundary. It is a very diverse community with high levels of deprivation. Many of the homes do not have private outdoor space and, although the estate benefits from generous open space, these provide little benefit to the community or wildlife owning to lack of funding and passive management along with little sense of ownership by the community. The site was a derelict mass of tarmac surrounded by railings, but local children saw passed this and managed to have fun with the space. This inspired us, with very limited resources, to pull off a community led transformation. With a firm eye on the agricultural roots of the local Bangladeshi community and local fruit and veg market, we designed a planting scheme focusing on edible plants and, after raising funding, the project was executed in early 2020 with contractors responsible for hard landscaping and residents doing everything else. The pandemic got in the way of an opening party but Ambrose Walk Community Garden proved invaluable during the lockdowns of 2020/21. It is now a space that adds to the lives of the community, which has well and truly taken pride and ownership of the garden. We improved access so disabled people can now use the space and installed lighting to help everyone feel safer.

 

How has this project, event or installation enlivened the place in a creative way? 250 words max. Please attach an image of the project that supports your statement.

 

Inspired by the creativity showed by local children and a tiny budget for a project of this size, we were innovative in design. For every existing feature, we asked how it could be recycled and contribute to the new scheme. This led to railings being turned on the their side for use by climbing plants, distinctive cut outs from the mass of tarmac to create flower beds, paving reused to create stepping stones across a lawn and hoggin subbase used as a medium for growing wildflowers. The end result is a public space that is fun, engaging, challenges the community to look through new eyes and sustainable.

The community can now meander on new paths through the space and enjoy a planting scheme that changes through the seasons - bulbs flower from winter to spring, nectar rich flowers in the summer and trees that bring the many different varieties of fruit and nut into the autumn.

The space is now home to fireworks displays for Diwali and Guy Fawkes night, important events in the local community’s calendar.

It was important to us the space supports wildlife and pollinating insects can now be seen regularly and Mistle Thrush and Common Sparrow, rarely seen across London, are now frequent visitors along with many other bird species including Wren, Blue and Great Tits, Robin, Magpies and Pigeons.

 

What do you see as the greatest success of this project? 250 words max. Please attach an image of the project that supports your statement.

 

Through this project, we succeeded in uniting different voices in the community and encouraging a sense of ownership by the community of Ambrose Walk Community Garden. This is evident from the community help during the design and planting phases of the project and subsequent adding of plants and maintenance of the space by the community.

More widely, the idea you can make a positive difference to the environment and bring about change is a strong message we aim to share in our work, particularly with ethnic minorities and younger people, and the best way to do that is by showing what can be done. With consider it a success of the project that, since Ambrose Walk Community Garden was completed, the community has gone on to develop and execute further improvements to the environment within the estate and this bodes well for years ahead.

During the project, we helped develop partnerships for the community with local charities, schools, funding organisations and the a local university and this will be important in future community work on the estate.

The project has also created a space that supports an array of wildlife, including insects, bees, butterflies and birds that benefit from the extensive array of plants and trees included in the design.

 

Please share any data or figures that support your entry, for example increased footfall, happiness surveys, event attendance and/or observed changes in behaviour. Did it make a positive economic, social and environmental contribution? You may also attach any news clippings, testimonials, or additional images or documents to support your entry.

 

Ambrose Walk Community Garden was completed just before the pandemic hit and that has impacted our ability to effectively engage with the wide community.

We have however noticed through observations significantly enhanced usage of the space.

When it wad derelict, children used chalk to play hopscotch and other games. They now can be seen cycling around the new paths created, wondering along elevated trails installed through the flower beds and learning about the plants, trees and wildlife now in the space.

Despite being among dense housing, very few people used the space before for anything other can an access point to homes. We now see many from the community wondering through slowly, taking time to enjoy the planting and wildlife, sometimes sitting on the benches installed. It is a wonderful to see the community, often Bangladeshi women, picking fruit from the 39 trees planted.

Local habitat website article
www.towerhabitats.org/news/new-community-square-at-ambrose-walk/

Local paper article
www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/news/tree-planting-coronavirus-lock-down-3655942

 

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