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  • Rebecca Armstrong

Creating a sunflower meadow in Walthamstow

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

It takes a community to plant hundreds of sunflowers, and we needed help – but would we get any? Rebecca Armstrong has the answers

It was always going to be a challenge and without volunteers it was going to be impossible. We had advertised on social media, flyered the area, shared with similar groups and even knocked on doors, but we couldn’t know for sure if anyone would turn up to help.

We were onsite at 10.30am on Sunday 16 July. The site in question was the plot of land we’re planning on turning into a community garden. But first we were going to transform it into a sunflower meadow. But to do that we needed help.

Four adults with gardening tools, standing in a piece of grassy land with potted sunflowers behind them.
Beginning to break ground with the early arrivals

The sunflowers were donated from the previous day’s Sun Dance event, a celebration organised by the people at Power Station in nearby Lynmouth Road to mark what they’ve achieved so far. They delivered the sunflowers to our plot on Mission Grove that evening, ready for us to plant the following day.

The first volunteers started turning up immediately – and more came and went throughout the day. All kinds of people turned up. Friends, family and neighbours of the core Transition Walthamstow group, dad and two kids who live in a flat overlooking the garden, people who had seen the flyers or messages on social media, members of related groups in Walthamstow. One chap simply saw us working, Googled us to find out what was going on and came over to join in.

Some people stayed for an hour or two, some stayed all day and even into the evening. But everyone chipped in and worked really hard. It was especially encouraging to see kids there and keen to help out. Although keeping them away from the pick axes away did prove tricky …

It was genuinely heartwarming to see so many people come together to create something beautiful. I was worried that no one would turn up – we’ve been struggling to get interest in the group in general and I thought the same would be true of this. I was very happy to be proved wrong – not to mention highly relieved!

The amount of work people put in was astonishing. The plot was a wasteland. It was completely overgrown with grasses, nettles and wildflowers. The ground was hard and mostly very dry – a bit of rain had thankfully eased it a bit. But with so many people mucking in, we managed to dig out a lot.

It was also a lot of fun – at least I had fun and I think (hope) others did too. Chatting to new people, working hard, that shared sense of coming together to create something beautiful. One of the team commented: “I didn't think I could lift a pick axe. But then I could even swing it. A good workout. I recommend it.”

We’ve also gained two new Transition Walthamstow members! A very heartfelt welcome to you both.

It wasn’t entirely a success. We didn’t plant all the sunflowers and we’ve had challenges with watering. A field of sunflowers is quite thirsty and we’ve had very little rain. We procured a 1000L IBC water tank, which Mission Grove Primary School kindly filled for us. Members of the team have been watering the flowers all week and generally looking after the garden. The school again let us use their water to refill the tank once more. Thankfully rain is forecast.

Those same team members have been planting more of the smaller sunflowers too, as well as giving them away to interested people. The garden has proved a real talking point, with people walking past stopping to ask what the project is all about.

We’ve realised we need a more long-term water solution. One of the team members has already been researching how to make tanks to capture rainwater. Our next project will be to collect the sunflower seeds for next year. Then we’ll start working on transforming this space into a community garden.

All that remains is to say a very big thank you to everyone who came to help on Sunday. It was much appreciated. We created a lovely garden that people are already enjoying. Huge thanks also FRP's Walthamstow Tool Library for the fantastic tools we were able to access, for FREE! The ground was so hard that standard forks were bending like they were made of plastic, but the mattock and pick axe made things much easier.

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Jul 23, 2023

I heard via a neighbour who thought it was my "kind of thing" as I recently created a small guerilla garden.

So on the day I joined in, found everyone very welcoming and stayed most of the day.

In fact I liked it so much I've been back every day since !

Thank you for providing a new outlet for my love of gardening,wildlife and working for a community benefit

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