Erica Cobb, Founder and Director of Arcadia Charitable Trust and Growing Space, shares the story of two successful garden projects in Kensington.
Two west London churches have actively engaged in creation care by transforming underused outdoor spaces into vibrant edible teaching gardens now utilized by local schools and the surrounding communities. Christ Church Kensington W8 and St. Helen’s North Kensington W10 set the standard for urban environmental stewardship and outreach. Both churches have partnered with a local not-for-profit, Arcadia Charitable Trust, and their Growing Space project, which aims to create beautiful and creative outdoor learning spaces. Local school children, residents and workshop participants are now able to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs in an urban oasis. They are also encouraged to observe, study and care for the insects and wildlife that share the garden. Through such interaction with nature they become witnesses to the miracle that is God’s creation.
Growing Space at Christ Church was officially opened in May 2019 by Helen Browning OBE, President of the Soil Association and former Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove. The garden is accessed weekly by students from 3 local schools. Everything from strawberries to squashes to nasturtium and beans have been planted in its 12 raised beds. There is even a class-made scarecrow on site.
Local families join in garden maintenance afternoons, guided by the on-site environmental coordinator who also schedules the garden’s use and organizes weekend and school holiday workshops for all ages. The woodland garden with its tree stump circle serves as the perfect outdoor classroom where forest school activities, Bible studies and quiet reflection take place. What was once a neglected patch of earth is now a vibrant and much-loved green oasis in the city.
The garden at St. Helen’s North Kensington is in its final stages of transformation and is set to officially open in June 2020. Meanwhile, local school children are already enjoying the woodland forest school and are busy preparing lists of what they will be planting in the raised beds in spring.
There are very few green spaces left within our urban centres that allow for hands-on engagement yet many of our churches have extra space that could be transformed into vibrant learning gardens. How can churches better steward their land and how can they serve their communities in a new and exciting way? Why not care for the earth together? Everyone wins!
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