How we founded Croydon’s first rooftop community garden

By - Friday 22nd July, 2016

Joyce Veheary, founder of the Lend and Tend garden sharing project, welcomes a chance to go green and grow amidst the concrete

Team work with Capital Growth, Grow Well, Feel Well, the Lost Format Society, Lend and Tend, Go Wild With Us and the BFI.
Photo author’s own.

Living in Croydon as a teenager, I couldn’t see beyond the featureless fields that surrounded the town. Thirteen years later (one of the joys of being a ‘renty-something’ is as many house moves under my belt) and I’m back in the borough. Now I love the fields! It’s a way to stay in touch with nature, especially if you don’t have a garden and currently, I don’t.

One of the downfalls of renting is the uncertainty. It usually means loving then losing a garden when you move (and don’t suggest getting an allotment, as there’s no chance in some parts of London: you can wait as long as forty-five years for one).

Leaving behind a garden you’ve put a lot of effort into is sometimes as upsetting as the upheaval of the house move itself. So to avoid going through this again, I created garden-sharing site Lend and Tend.

We’ve raised beds of veggies on the roof of an NCP carpark

One of the boons of our borough is the burgeoning creative, tech and start-up scene. One of its great successes is Croydon Tech City which has cheered me on along the way. Lend and Tend has got people garden sharing from Croydon to Cambridge and all the way across to Canada. Then, when I took part in environmental radio show ‘Green Croydon,’ the rooftop cinema company, The Lost Format Society got in touch to share its gardening space via Lend and Tend.

Photo by D. Thring, used with permission.

On the rooftop of the Fairfield Halls NCP carpark, together we’ve created Croydon’s only rooftop community garden and with advice from @CroydonGardener, who specialises in ‘no-dig’ gardening, we’ve built raised beds full of veggies. Local businesses such as craft brewers Volden Brewery have donated spent hops to create compost, lavender has been lent from Mayfield lavender fields and individual locals have generously given soil and garden paraphernalia, making it a real community effort.

On Saturday 9th July we held a family fun day there, called Grow Well, Live Well Day, with the support of Capital Growth.

This is a meaningful use of a meanwhile place

Up in the garden we were joined by a BFI filmmaking workshop where you could create a film for Croydon’s forthcoming Silent Film Festival, ease your muscles and your mind with gardeners’ yoga and do woodland crafts with Go Wild With Us, a group which leads workshops in our forests. We’re lucky in this borough to be surrounded by countryside and the great outdoors on our doorstep is something we should appreciate.

Bringing nature to a concrete space has been a success. It’s a meaningful use of a meanwhile place. The rooftop cinema-garden will be here till the end of the summer when hopefully we’ll harvest and plan for spring. I want people to enjoy it: use it as allotment space, perhaps, before catching a film.

I was amazed when I heard about the rooftop space. It’s just what Croydon needs and collaborating with the cinema as a partner couldn’t have been more perfect. I have a background in film and theatre and the space has connected two things I love: gardening and cinema. The first time I found it, I came out of East Croydon station and saw the street market on Ruskin Square, selling soft shell crab burgers! My inner sixteen-year-old self who couldn’t wait to get out of Croydon couldn’t believe my eyes!

When I get off of a cramped, delayed Southern train, I love going up to garden. I’ll water the plants and stay until the sun sets. Although the light fades and shines through eerily empty nearby office buildings, there’s an air of optimism at last. And if you’d like to join in, tend to plants in the rooftop garden or find out more about garden sharing, either lending one or tending to one, you can click here.

Joyce Veheary

Joyce Veheary

Joyce has a background in film and theatre, but she's also trying to make the world a bit greener. As founder of garden sharing site she's turning grey spaces green, like Croydon's Fairfield Halls NCP carpark rooftop and as an alumni of Croydon Tech City's MBA; this star pupil is using her newfound knowledge to use tech for good. In founding Lend and Tend; she's turned a passion for food and growing edible produce into a way we can connect in our communities via gardening. Lover of The Arts, plays, poetry, poached eggs and plants.

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