Forward, guerrilla gardeners of Croydon!

By - Friday 3rd April, 2015

Down in the urban jungle of Croydon’s parks and gardens, something is stirring

Photo author’s own.

An influx of new, local blood has flowed into the volunteer ‘Friends’ groups who support and maintain Croydon’s parks and community gardens over the last twelve months – and it’s turned them guerrilla.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a guerrilla force as ‘a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against large, regular forces’. That’s definitely something we’d embrace. Amongst recent guerrilla gardening activities, the united force of ‘Friends’ helped the RISE gallery with the clean-up and greening of St George’s Walk after the damage done to graffiti installations there, established various community gardens across the borough and even planted sunflowers through the centre of town.

The redesigns of Wandle Park and Croydon Minster’s Memorial Garden have also galvanised young local gardeners into action and new park ‘Friends’ and ‘Community Garden’ groups have been springing up across the borough. All this activity has made Croydon Council sit up and take note of the community potential of its fabulous, but often forgotten, green spaces – don’t forget that whatever Croydon’s concrete stereotype, there are officially 127 of them!

New developments threaten Croydonians with ‘green poverty’

In a time of council cut backs, the importance of parks and green spaces is often forgotten. However, the volume of new city centre developments, some with zero outside space, threatens Croydon’s residents with what is officially called ‘green poverty’.

Photo author’s own.

To combat this threat, the active Friends groups across town are uniting under one umbrella to speak with a louder voice to the powers-that-be, to apply for funding that the council can’t touch (such as from the National Lottery) and to get their ideas actioned. These groups aim not to replace council parks workers who do important and valuable work with the resources they have, but to add to and develop upon that work: to be, in short, the icing on the cake.

All over Croydon, from Thornton Heath Community Gardens to Ashburton Park, from Haling Grove and Park Hill Park, from Wandle Park to the Minster Memorial Gardens, the Friends groups are linking up and talking to other groups such as Croydon Transition Town and Project Dirt. They are comparing, planning and taking action to address the growing need to bring our parks and green spaces into full use for Croydon’s expanding population.

These groups need to more volunteers with drive and fresh ideas to help Croydon’s green spaces survive. Are you ready to trowel up and join us? With recent events such as BIG DIG providing opportunities to get involved, have fun and improve quality of life for all Croydonians, there’s never been a better time to join.

One corner of Park Hill Park is especially magical

In a corner of Park Hill Park is a small and beautiful walled garden that about fifteen years ago was set up in memory of Cicely Mary Barker, the Flower Fairies writer and artist, by Croydon Council, her family and publishers. Sadly it’s lain forgotten under a load of weeds for years until the community gardeners took it to their hearts and saw a chance to get kids interested in gardening and ecology.

Now, as part of the programme of the forthcoming Croydon Heritage Festival 2015, to be held in June 2015, this garden will become a focus of activity to commemorate Cicely Mary Barker, to involve children in creative writing and art and to foster their interest in the natural world.

The message for all Croydonians is this: know your local parks and gardens. Visit them, use them and love them – or have them forgotten and risk losing them.

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Josi Kiss

Josi Kiss

Josi grew up in Croydon and is of mixed European heritage; indeed, she was once called a ‘European mongrel’ and is very proud of the fact she comes from a refugee background. A former designer and retail expert Josi worked for twenty years in buying for two of the world's most famous department stores. After living and working around the world, she returned to live in Croydon in 2001 with the aim of creating a life/work/joy balance. Her world travels have increased her passion for her much maligned and misrepresented home town of Croydon, especially its forgotten green spaces and parks. Josi is currently co-chair of the Friends of Park Hill Park, Croydon's central park, and also a director of Made in Croydon CIC, a not for profit community interest company working to promote, connect and commission artists & designers who live, work or are inspired by Croydon.

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  • Andrew Dickinson

    Josi, well done for planting this article and welcome to the Citizen. I hope your writing contributions grow especially on this topic. It will be interesting to see how roots develop especially with the council. I’ll shut up now.