There are many ways of living our commitment to justice, peace and the integrity of creation. One of them, for me, is being involved in community gardening, working with others to maintain a green space in east London.
Abbey Gardens are on the site of a former wasteland, originally the site of a 12th century abbey, and now right next to a Docklands Light Railway station. It is an exciting and creative space, run by a charity, The Friends of Abbey Gardens, with a garden leader who coordinates the work of the garden volunteers.
The gardens are open 3 days a week for anyone to enjoy. I met a man who has a very demanding job and likes to come in sometimes for a few minutes on his way to work to enjoy the peace of the garden. There are benches to sit on, and for the more energetic, activities to become involved in. One of the distinctive features of the gardens is that the space is shared; no garden volunteer has their own ‘patch’ and everyone helps out with whatever task is needed, planting, weeding, harvesting. The gardeners come in all shapes and sizes, from children to volunteers from the business community, local people and those from further afield. Some come regularly and others occasionally. Beginners and experienced gardeners are equally welcome and there is always something to learn. Volunteers can take home some of the produce, and the rest is bagged and left on a shelf outside with an honesty box for contributions.
The gardens have an educative role, showing people how to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers, and there are special events from time to time which involve the local community.
An article on the website www.abbeygardens.org, explains the heading: “chatting over a clearing job, we agreed that the quiet rhythm of gardening is a meditative thing. So just as we give the tomatoes space to ripen, we can give ourselves space to let ideas flow, enjoy the peace of the garden, be among nature and get some mental refreshment. All this while helping maintain this beautiful urban green space and being part of a community garden”.
Lorna Brockett rscj