Creating communities: estates gardening

A group of adults and children holding up bug boxes in a grassy area

Islington Council’s estates community gardening team was set up in January 2021 to help improve greenspaces on estates across the borough – speaking with residents to understand what they’d like their shared spaces to look like and working with them to bring that vision to life. We spoke to head gardener Mark Rowe, and some of the residents who’ve been involved, to learn more

“Having lovely parks is great, but if you have an issue with a park, you don’t have to go there – communal gardens are on your doorstep, so it’s no surprise people are very interested in improvements,” says Mark Rowe, head of the estates community gardening team, which was set up last year to improve horticulture on estates, “for the benefit of wildlife and humans”.

The team began working on estates in Barnsbury but have since expanded across other areas of the borough. One group that’s been particularly active is the residents on the Montague Estate. “Some other residents and I have been involved in making the back garden a really nice place to spend time in,” says John. “We have prepared the beds for planting more flowers and shrubs, to finish the back garden. Just before Christmas, myself and Alex, a member of the council’s gardening team, installed metal fencing and gates to the front garden to make the garden more secure,” he continues. “I’ve really enjoyed working with Alex and we’re all really grateful for his help.”

While there’s still work to be done, “I think this summer our building will look the best it’s ever been,” adds Jill, another resident. “I hope that passersby will enjoy seeing the results of our gardening efforts.”

Resident Rose Heatley, meanwhile, has been busy helping replant a large rose bed over on St Luke’s Estate. “I enjoyed working with other residents to get rid of all the old bushes and preparing the soil for new plants,” she says. “The new bed will look cared-for, which will be an incentive for us to keep watering! We’ve chosen the roses carefully, so hopefully they’ll look great when they come into bloom.”

The gardening team has also worked with local families on estates, to get children out in nature and involved in gardening. Last year, children of Legions Close took part in a half-term activity making bug hotels from recycled wood pallets. They learnt about insect habitats and went on a nature treasure hunt to collect items for their boxes.

Work has begun to prepare several other estates and the team is gearing up to start planting. “It’s a great thing to be involved in,” continues Mark – “an opportunity to upskill and get out and do something positive.”

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