“Fancy growing your own veg? No garden? You could put your name down for an allotment – but Camden’s waiting list was, the last time I checked, 40 years, and unless you can see yourself tottering around with a Zimmer frame as you water the tomatoes, there’s no point even trying.
Flowerbed planting at Kilburn tube. Photo via Kilburn Times
But there is another possibility: Transition West Hampstead’s food growing project – and if you walk down Abbey Road later this year, you might just see the first green shoots behind St Mary’s Church.
The church, at the corner of Abbey Road and Priory Road, has donated some land to Transition West Hampstead to enable local residents to experience The Good Life. Led by David Abrahams, the group plans to turn the 20 square metre space into raised beds in time to start planting in the spring.
Any crops grown will go to the people who worked on the site and the project hopes to include Abbey Community Centre and other community groups.
Once Priory Gardens Food Growing Project gets off the ground, there are likely to be more. Even London Overground is apparently keen to see food growing at West Hampstead. Hmmmm….beans and cabbages would certainly make a change from graffiti!
Transition West Hampstead is always keen to recruit new volunteers so, if you’re interested in finding out more, contact David at or call him on 07724 894145.”
On Monday evening, the Transition Town West Hampstead initiative kicked off. Sadly I couldn’t make, it but guest reporter Suzie was on hand to tell us more:
It was a good turn out for the inaugural West Hampstead TT meeting. Around 30 people gathered at St James’ Church to find out what the Transition Town movement was all about.
George Latham and nettle pesto canapés
Having been welcomed with some homemade and locally foraged nettle pesto (quite yummy, as it happens!) and elderflower cordial, West Hamsptead resident David Abrahams kicked off proceedings. He had been impressed, he said, by what our neighbours at Transition Belsize and Transition Kensal 2 Kilburn had achieved over a short period of time, and wanted to replicate this in West Hampstead.
The evening started with A Farm for the Future, a film that tells the story of wildlife filmmaker, Rebecca Hoskin, who returned to Devon to run her family farm. She explains how heavily modern farming relies on oil – from the diesel needed to run the planting and harvesting machinery, to the oil-based fungicides, pesticides and insecticides used in growing the crops. As she puts it: “All food production is dripping in oil”.
The film went on to explain that with world oil reserves diminishing, energy prices on the rise, and a farming community in decline (there are only 150,000 farmers left whereas there used to be 10 times as many), the UK – a net importer of food – is in a precarious position to feed its own growing population.
So what’s the answer? The core concept of the Transition Town movement is building local resilience to a future world without oil, and finding “local solutions to global problems”. It aims to do this by sharing knowledge within local communities; by re-learning lost skills, such as foraging for food (apparently Hampstead Heath is a rich resource!) and sewing; and developing new ones, such as creating cycle groups and learning how to make your home more energy efficient.
Camden’s former ‘eco champion’ Alexis Rowell talking to the group
It’s also about teaching and inspiring people, and helping them feel safe and happy by encouraging residents to get to know their neighbours and breaking down feelings of isolation. Did you know that 48% of Camden residents live alone?
George Latham, from the Kensal 2 Kilburn group, shared a few examples of what can be achieved. He told us how it had set up a community allotment on a Brent Partnership housing estate (which has since doubled in size), and created “abundance groups” – volunteers that collect fruit from local residents’ gardens that would otherwise have been wasted. In fact, last year a staggering two tonnes of fruit went to local schools! It also shared other skills such as crocheting, apple pressing, and jam, chutney and bread making. A big success was their local harvest festival, which drew 200 people and ended up with everyone sitting next to their neighbours and sharing a ‘festival stew’.
Transition West Hampstead can be anything we want it to be and it’s up to Transition members to follow their passion, whether it be energy, sustainable transport and food production, or wellbeing and the creative arts. Last night the enthusiasm was palpable and there was a sense of momentum, but the next step is ours. The key thing is that it’s enjoyable. Remember: “If it ain’t fun, it ain’t sustainable!”
If you’d like to find out more about Transition West Hampstead, or would like to get involved, please email: . Or read more about the wider transition network.