Since 2018, we have been working alongside the Healthy Living Platform to redevelop the grounds of Max Roach Adventure Playground, part of the Loughborough Community Centre in Brixton. The intention is to create lots of space that can be used to grow healthy, organic food that can then be used by HLP’s Food Ambassadors, who create free healthy meals for parents and children attending their activities at the site.

Our first task was to create a small vegetable garden, consisting of five raised beds, where we could get growing some vegetables as soon as possible. With lots of signage to label the beds and to explain how future crop rotation would happen at the site, the space is perfect for the different groups using the centre to be able to understand what is growing where.

Next up was a new mini-orchard, which we planted on the nursery side of Loughborough Community Centre, in the grounds where the children attending Rosebuds Nursery can play amongst the trees. We hosted a special Saturday planting event, and were joined by lots of the centres regular families to plant the new fruit trees.

The next part of our development work was to build a new polytunnel and compost bays. We carried out this work in the winter of 2018/19, and the polytunnel meant that we were able to produce huge crops of tomatoes and melons during the summer of 2019, as well as creating a perfect environment for bringing on seedlings. The compost bays are regularly used daily to dispose of food waste left over from the activities of the HLP Food Ambassadors, as well as others cooking in the centre.

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Later in 2019, we secured funding from the Mayor of London’s Greener City Small Grants Fund to develop the area around the back of the polytunnel, to create another new raised bed, a table for use for outdoor potting activities, two more compost bays, a storage space for horse manure to rot down, and a cold frame! This work is still taking place and due to be completed in time for the 2020 growing season to get under way.

Throughout this time at Max Roach, we have also been working with the Healthy Living Platform to host activities in the garden as part of their weekly ‘Lunch Grow Play’ session for parents and children under the age of 4. Funded by LEAP, the Lambeth Early Action Partnership, the programme encourages young families to spent time outdoors, playing in the garden and getting involved in growing fresh fruit and vegetables.

We bring the children into the garden and ask them to help us with the harvesting, and that food is then cooked up by the HLP Food Ambassadors and the children and families get a free healthy lunch that they themselves have helped to plant, grow and harvest!

Now in 2020, we are working again with HLP to build a team of ‘Garden Ambassadors’ to help maintain the food growing spaces at the Max Roach centre. Growing Gardeners is a four-part garden skills training programme that we are teaching at Max Roach on behalf of the Healthy Living Platform, to train up a team of people that will help to nurture the garden in future. We’ll be returning for special activity days during the Max Roach Schools Playschemes, and we’ll be on site on the last Saturday of every month to assist the Garden Ambassadors.

Find out more about the Healthy Living Platform and the great work they are doing at Max Roach and other centres in South London by visiting their website.

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