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Cool Spring


The plot is beginning to look colourful again, with a succession of spring flowers, and the shoots of other perennial plants are also coming to vivid life. I find myself marvelling at the delicate little primroses, clustered beneath my vine, and every so often I bend down to take in the scent of white hyacinths that are dotted around the plot.
On Easter Sunday, I was surprised to see a Peacock butterfly out in the sunshine, perched on the Victoria plum blossom where it was presumably feeding on nectar. Since then, with the temperatures plummeting due to a direct northerly wind, I have only seen one very large bumblebee braving the cold air. Recently, I joined the RSPB and their Handbook of Garden Wildlife tells me that the butterfly caterpillars feed on stinging nettles. There are plenty of those around, including a patch on my plot as they are a valuable edible crop, especially the fresh tops at this time of year.
It has been a laborious job getting the raised beds into good shape before any major planting and sowing begins. Much of the wood had become rotten. Every year I build everything a little higher and the broad beans, sown about a month ago, are now showing atop a layered mound of earth, woodchip and compost. The onion sets are also in the ground and I shall begin planting potatoes with the hope that they will not be affected by any late frosts.
I am often joined by a very friendly robin as I go about my work, waiting to pick up worms or it hops on and off a feeder I made from a tin can, which I hope it shares with other birds.

Spring Greens


It was wonderful to have blue sky and sunshine this last weekend and there is now the heartening sight of flowering spring bulb shoots beginning to appear around the plot. The daffodils are in the lead and I am hoping that the slugs will leave them alone this year.
With the ground being a little dryer than it has been over many weeks, it was easier to go about my job of fixing the raised beds where the wood has become wet and rotten.
A couple of weeks ago I arrived at the allotment to find there had been a delivery of compost next to the muck and woodchip. The compost came via the Council and is made out of green material and leaves collected from the parks. Other than the quantity of litter it contains, it is a welcome bonus and makes a good planting layer atop the woodchip and muck that I have already added to the beds.
It’s time to harvest the purple sprouting broccoli and I relish the fresh greenness of this vegetable that fills the hungry gap during the early part of the growing year. I have several broccoli plants divided between three beds.
Recently I was lamenting that I hadn’t seen any rose chafer beetles last summer. I then found one on the ground outside my shed. Usually, they emerge in late spring and this one was still sleepy, so I put it next to some logs that encircle the base of my apple tree, where it can burrow down until the weather becomes warmer.

Bumper Potato Crop


A few wintry frosts have added sparkle at the allotment lately. My job there has been to mulch the beds, this time with woodchip while waiting for a delivery of horse manure and I shall see how the plants and seedlings respond to a different topping. Once broken down, the chippings can produce rich and fertile soil.
A robin flits about but this one is more shy than previous feathered friends. Recently, I made a bird feeder from a tin can, hoping to attract other garden birds, including a flock of sparrows that fly among the higher branches around the site. I have an idea they are ‘tree’ rather than ‘house’ sparrows, but will need my binoculars to get a proper look.
A couple of celeriac and some Cavalo Nero remain on the winter menu and I still have half a bag of Sarpo Mira potatoes. In the autumn I was surprised to receive a copy of a quarterly magazine from Cultural Survival - a group supporting indigenous communities around the world since 1972. The magazine is entitled ‘Back to Our Roots; Indigenous Food Solutions’ and from it I learned of an area in Peru called The Potato Park where an astonishing 1,300 varieties of potato are conserved.
This year I plan to grow Elfe again, another heavy cropping potato that keeps well in winter. It is time to start looking through the seed catalogues, but I have also saved a few seeds from last year and this is something I would like to do more from now on.
With that in mind, I shall finish with a quote from Cultural Survival’s magazine –
“Seed is not a commodity. It is the source of life. Gardens and forests are seed sanctuaries. When you respect the seed, you are connected to the sacred thread that connects us all.” Te Tui Shortland (Maori).

Winter Greens


The plot is looking greener than I would expect for the time of year and if the ground wasn’t so water-logged, I would mow the grass paths.
There are three beds containing brassicas, mainly purple sprouting broccoli from two sowings that I made in the spring. These plants are now tall and bushy with large curly-edged leaves. It was a crop that I relied on for weeks during the first lockdown and the delicious florets nicely fill a hungry gap before others come to fruition.
This week I harvested celeriac and parsnips, the former always looking monstrous when I pull them up out of the soil, until I have removed most of the tangled mass of hairy roots. I shall leave a couple of the parsnips to go to seed after hearing on Gardener’s World that they attract blackfly away from other plants.
The ground will harden now that the temperatures are dropping more consistently, but I have managed to get most of the weeding and clearing done.
It was quiet as I went about my work, save for the cries of parakeets perched on trees in the distance, and I was lamenting not having seen the robin. Later in the day I was horrified to find it caught in a net that has been covering the Cavolo Nero for several weeks now. With scissors already in hand, I gently held its weightless little body in the other and managed to cut it free. It flew off before I had a chance to check that all the netting was gone and I have now removed the trap from the plants to replace with an older, larger mesh net.

Gathering and Waiting


Autumn, I find, is often a time of waiting as well as harvesting. Waiting for pumpkins that are a dark green colour to become orange. This always seems so unlikely until the transformation actually happens, in a similar way to the spectacular range of golden to deep russet colours of the leaves on the trees.
It is not until the first frosts arrive that the biggest change takes place. This is most noticeable by the sudden downfall of masses of nasturtiums that run rampant every year over areas of my plot from late summer. As an edible, self-seeded crop, I welcome them every year.
I held off taking down the runner beans from the canes. There are no longer any that are edible, but I would like to gather seeds from several remaining pods. The dahlias too will need to be dug up and safely stored in my shed for the winter. I shall miss their fabulously formed flowers, which I have enjoyed taking home with me for many weeks now.
Some time in August, I sowed a second crop of carrots in a tub filled with compost and sand. These germinated well but there was no room for the roots to properly grow, so I have transplanted them into a double raised bed. It’s an experiment and they may not thrive at all, but one advantage is that there is no longer the threat of carrotfly at this time of year.
A job that I am very pleased to have achieved this autumn is re-painting and repairing the outside of my shed. The next major task for the winter is to re-build the compost area, which inevitably will be a very muddy affair.

Insects & Other Beasties


On one of the wettest days since early spring, my visit to the allotment happened to coincide with a break in the clouds and the sun shone through for a short time bringing unexpected warmth and autumnal glow. The ditches surrounding the raised beds were filled to the brim and I watched a large frog swim freely along in the clear water. I also had a rare sighting of an adult fox in what I call ‘no man’s land’, beyond the perimeter fence.
It is the insects nowadays that I am keen to see as there has been such a noticeable decline in their numbers. As I picked runner beans I spotted a strikingly patterned shield bug; in past years there have been many. After it had determinedly marched along the whole length of a bean, I carefully manoeuvred it back onto the main plant.
I still have a couple of cucumbers that should be ready to harvest in a week’s time and the courgettes are continuing to flower, albeit at a slower rate than during the summer. Hidden beneath the foliage are several squash that I shall leave in situ as I read that the skins need to be fully hardened in order for them to store well until they are eaten.
My best new crop is the water parsley, grown from seeds I bought at Chelsea Physic Garden. Of all the plants, these should be most happy with the recent deluge.

Thundery Downpours


It was a relief to discover on my last visit to the allotment that there had been one or more localised thundery downpours following the incredible high temperatures last week. The plants, perked up by the rain, held droplets in upturned leaves and the sky remained overcast with the occasional shower. I spotted a large bumblebee hanging motionless from a cluster of borage flowers, so I lightly stroked its wings to check it was still alive. It moved very slightly as if to say that it wasn’t to be disturbed under such conditions.
As always, some crops have done better than others. I am happily harvesting courgettes after experiencing a deficit last year, and many of the Charlotte potatoes look larger than ever before, with skins so fresh and clean that they hardly need to be washed.
Three cucumber plants tied to a frame made from willow branches are producing a steady supply of fruit, but it’s not only the harvest I am enjoying. Alongside are nasturtiums, squash and several Zinnia plants, displaying an aesthetic combination of shapes from tendril, fruit to leaf, in addition to the brightly coloured flowers.
The family of frogs in my bucket pond has diminished to two at the last count, which I imagine is due to the very hot weather. One appeared from behind the outside rim, indicating they may have retreated to holes in the clay that form a sort of network of caves lower down, between the bucket and the earth. It is here that I think they also spend the winter months.

Summer Evenings


It has been a luxury to again enjoy daylight late into the summer evenings and to be able to work at a more leisurely pace. I have had a bumper crop of red currants and gooseberries, the latter taking time to pick as I try to avoid becoming covered in scratches from the sharp thorns, although I think this is almost impossible.
One evening, I caught sight of a pair of wood pigeons walking stealthily towards the fruit area of my plot, which I had netted extra carefully. These birds were likely the same pair that managed to steal almost my entire crop of gooseberries last year. I crept up along the main path and heard a frantic flapping of wings as they made their escape under the net on the other side.
The globe artichokes have also done well and I have been making soup with young vine leaves, sorrel and fat-hen, which is growing prolifically among my pea plants. Fat-hen is considered a weed but was cultivated in the past as a vegetable. The triangular shaped leaves can be cooked and used like spinach, or added raw to salads, as can the flowers.
Recently I was sent an online link to an article on the health and therapeutic benefits of walking barefoot. These benefits include strengthening the immune system and helping to restore the body’s circadian rhythms, leading to better sleep. Whilst my hands connect with the earth as I garden, I wear flip=flops on my feet, so I am now spending more time joining the shoeless revolution….at the allotment at least.

Strawberry Season


The allotment has been looking ever bushier on each visit, although the change this spring has been somewhat less dramatic than usual without the rain to spur things on. It felt more like mid-summer during the weeks of endless sunshine. I watched bees move busily in and out of the little bell-shaped flowers of the comfrey, their legs laden with pollen, and a damsel fly caught my eye as it flew past and landed to rest with its wings together on a nearby branch.
There is, as always, masses to do at this time of year and having completed my least favourite job of netting the currants and gooseberries, just in time before the birds are onto them, I shall now get to work on clearing a bed for runner and French beans.
The broad beans, sown in early spring, are ready to begin harvesting and I shall eat the tops of the plants too – I discovered how delicious these were last year. The star crop of the season so far, however, is the strawberries. These have been prolific, so much so that I have now baked three strawberry caramel cakes.
It would be hard to feel alone with the presence of a robin as I go about my work. It practices little social distancing while landing close by to pick up worms and before I left one evening, I also counted six frogs in my very small pond.

Spring Light


At last we have had rainfall at the end of one of the driest Aprils on record. The ground is still saturated further below the surface from the heavy rain and floods in February, but the young seedlings in my raised beds will need to get their roots further down to benefit.
One day, I arrived at the allotment early in the morning. I enjoyed the soft sunlight at that time and the ground was still wet with heavy dew from the night before. I did some weeding, leaving alone the poppies that are springing up all around the plot and I observed one of the Californian poppies opening wide as the daylight grew. Last year’s flowers were orange, but this one had delicate pink, magenta and yellow hues.
In the same bed, asparagus spears are appearing in greater numbers, a little later than on other plots since mine was particularly waterlogged this winter. Other annual plants are also coming to life. Already there is a globe artichoke developing atop one of the tall stems and the vine is fast sprouting fresh, green leaves. Every autumn, after the leaves have died off, I cut the branches right back. Another plot-holder, who is of French origin, recommends cutting to two leaf notches. He told the story of a farmer whose sheep were left to roam in the vineyard. They nibbled the plants back and that way it was discovered the benefits of hard pruning to help deliver a better crop of fruit.
The apple blossom on my Charles Ross tree is one of my favourite flowers. I keep looking at it and taking pictures of it, only sorry that the flowers are there for such a short length of time each spring.

Gardening for Exercise


Ten days ago, I cycled through Kensington Palace Gardens on my way home from work. It was an oasis of calm and beauty amid the chaos as people rushed to gather supplies in light of the fast emerging pandemic crisis. I was struck by the well-manicured front gardens, displaying blossom-laden trees, camellias in full bloom and one with a multitude of tulips set in a broad, curvaceous bed.
I now have plenty of opportunity to enjoy my own spring flowers on the windowsill. Inspired by a feature on Gardener’s World in the autumn, I layered bulbs in pots to produce a succession of blooms of pretty blue iris, daffodils, narcissi and tulips.
The best news recently has been that we can continue to visit our allotments during the lockdown, since it is considered a form of exercise. This is certainly the case, but the plot is also my main source of produce for most of the year and I have been harvesting purple sprouting broccoli for the past few weeks. Nettle tops, cleaver shoots (also known as goosegrass) and sorrel are in ready supply and I add them to soups.
The young leaves of broad beans planted a few weeks ago are beginning to show and I have sown a few rows of peas, radishes, celeriac and cabbage. My main job, however, has been to add the base layers from my compost heap to the beds in preparation for planting.
On a recent visit to the plot, I discovered a little burrow in the heap where I had emptied my compost bucket the previous week. Inside I could see a ball of fur and a tail. Last summer, I frequently caught sight of a small rat, contentedly making its way between both my neighbours’ overgrown plots and it seems to have now emerged again after the winter. Never having been partial to these rodents, I have to confess that, later in the day, it did look quite adorable when I spotted its furry face and whiskers alongside a trio of blue hyacinths.

Romanesco & Fibonacci


In the past two weeks, I have undertaken the task of digging a ditch along the neighbour’s side of a waterlogged path between our plots. Not surprisingly, this was a muddy business, made all the more arduous by the fact that all kinds of rubble had been used to fill the old ditch.
As for the plot itself, there are heartening signs of new growth appearing now that the days are becoming longer. Already, I am beginning to harvest a few purple sprouting broccoli from about half a dozen bushy plants, which I have carefully netted against birds and securely staked to withstand storms Ciara and Dennis. I was also delighted to discover a Romanesco broccoli nestled in the leaves as I peered down into the centre of the plant. Yesterday, I saw a larger specimen in the food hall of Fortnum & Mason priced at £4! Romanesco, as the name suggests, originate from Italy in the sixteenth century. On showing it to a fellow plot-holder, he began to talk about the Fibonacci sequence. This was apropos the striking spiral formation, which was named after an Italian mathematician who lived during the thirteenth century, although he did not discover the sequence. It can be seen in many other formations in nature, such as in the pattern of a fir cone, or the curled, young leaves on a bracken plant. The number of petals on a flower will also match the numbers of the sequence made by adding the two preceding number to make the next, so 3, 5, 8 etc.
As I was busy digging the other week I heard the sound of what I thought was a goose overhead, only to discover when I looked up that it was a swan, its long neck outstretched as it flew across a clear sky. I imagine that is was a whooper swan, since it had a loud flight-call and these birds over-winter here from Iceland before making the non-stop journey back again in the spring.



Last Sunday I managed to get a surprising amount of work done at the allotment for a mid-winter visit. The weather was mild enough to finish off pulling up weeds and then add muck as mulch onto the beds. I also unravelled several trailing stems of honeysuckle from two plants grown from cuttings given to me by another plot-holder last year; one is beside the plum tree and the other next to the vine arch in the centre of my plot. They are now wound around the branches of the tree and vine respectively and I am hopeful for an adornment of beautiful, scented flowers in the summer.
Next to the honeysuckle, at the base of the plum tree, is a large dandelion, which I have left in situ, partly because it would be awkward to dig out with a raised bed on one side and a prickly gooseberry bush on the other. There is also the fact that it is edible and I harvested the leaves throughout the summer and autumn months. The other day I went to a restaurant where I ordered confit of duck served on a bed of dandelion leaves. With the current trend for foraging I am making the most of all that the allotment has to offer, extending a handy supply of weeds to edible crops with the help of a book, given to me by a friend, called Root to Stem, A Seasonal Guide to Natural Recipes and Remedies for Everyday Life, by Alex Laird.
Against the sparse winter backdrop, a myrtle bush is flourishing beside my small pond with a mixture of vibrantly variegated and dark green leaves. It has done wondrously this winter, producing a steady supply of berries that change in colour from reddish pink to blue-black. The berries have many uses – I dry them along with the leaves and add them to casseroles – and the plant is said to have a number of medicinal benefits, with Australian myrtle honey apparently having the most powerful antibacterial properties of any honey in the world.

Winter Wilding & Overwintering Dahlia


With the shortening winter days, my visits to the plot are briefer than usual. I continue to clear the ground of any dead material and remaining weeds while it is still soft and am mindful of the advice on BBC’s Gardener’s World not to be too tidy, so as to leave undisturbed space for wildlife. I then listened to Isabella Tree on Desert Island Discs last weekend as she spoke about how she and her husband let their farmland in Sussex re-wild, resulting in a wide variety of flora and fauna being able to thrive over time and balance to be restored to the ecosystem.
One of my allotment neighbours has been absent for the past year. She grew many plants in pots so the height increase in the growing season, from ground level and above, was dramatic since permanent crops and weeds alike were left to advance at their own will. I have recently harvested a steady supply of large juicy raspberries, growing on straggling stems, late into the autumn. A communal pathway running between two halves of the plot became very overgrown in the summer, forming a sort of tunnel. After a while, it was necessary to cut back the plants but until then I was struck by the number of moths and other insects, too small to be identified, that fluttered out of the foliage as I walked along the path. It felt magical and one could almost hear the rustle of their movement.
A few weeks ago I dug up my dahlia ‘Café au Lait’, which flowered late but was well worth waiting for. It is a precious new addition to my plot so I have taken care to overwinter it in the shed, first turning it upside-down to dry off the roots and now it is sitting in a pot filled with newspaper and compost until I can plant it out again once the frosts have finished in the spring.

Autumn Colours


Last week, well into autumn, I felled a self-seeded sunflower that had grown like a tree to at least twice my height. It was sturdy enough for parakeets to perch and feed on seeds in the flower heads that sprouted one after another from multiple side branches. It looked somewhat incongruous with the shifting landscape into autumnal colours, the most striking element being an old oak tree on the far side of the lane leading to the allotments. Next to it is a smaller oak and then another just inside the fence. Frequently I find saplings dotted about the plot, most likely from acorns buried in the ground by squirrels. I am now loath to dig them up with there being an ongoing campaign for more trees across the UK and national efforts by the Woodland Trust – I have become a member this year – to help us become carbon neutral by 2050.
On the plot I continue to harvest carrots, chard, salad greens, kale and a plentiful crop of beetroot, including a batch from a second sowing in August. Elsewhere I am busy clearing and digging over the beds, which means disturbing a surprising number of frogs that hide among the debris of leaves and I hear them plop into the water filled ditches around the raised beds.
A couple of weeks ago a large dragonfly flew about my head and I could sense the power in its wings with which they can fly up to a speed of 30mph and in any direction. By its colouring, it looked like a Golden-ringed Dragonfly, the longest species of dragonfly here in the UK and apparently a voracious predator, with the ability to devour other species of its own kind.

Best of the Summer


Summer has passed and we are now well into apple season. The Charles Ross apple tree, as ever, has flourished with a plentiful supply of attractive fruit, the drawback being that they do not keep for any length of time. Discovering holes in the apples is a tell tale sign that the birds are onto them – I suspect the local parakeets – and that they are fully ripe. Wasps then crawl into the holes left by the birds, which can make picking somewhat treacherous; I was stung twice in one day last year.
Success of summer crops has been varied, mainly due to a slow start in the spring and disruption to the freshly dug and seeded beds by a reprehensible fox. Two wood pigeons were seen by another plot-holder eating almost my entire crop of gooseberries in an area I had carefully netted, cleverly managing to find their way inside. I am making better gains with the autumn harvest, which includes three bagsful of potatoes and the most successful carrots I have ever grown.
On a floral theme, a colourful array of self-seeded poppies stole the show earlier in the season. Now, at last, the dahlia ‘Café au Lait’ has come into flower and I am stunned by the size of the blooms. During recent inclement weather, a large bumble bee found shelter by firmly retreating inside one of the curled petals until it was reluctantly evicted after I picked the flower to take home. Cutting the flower stems should encourage further blooms until the temperatures drop, halting new growth until next year.

What a difference a week makes


What a difference a week makes in the great outdoors at this time of year. The sudden prolific growth of perennial plants at the allotment is, as always, something wondrous, not least the Russian Comfrey. Already I am cutting back any tall stems that are spilling out over the grass paths, but not before the bees have collected their bounty of nectar. The small purple, bell-shaped blooms are a winning lure for these insects, creating a zone of activity at one end of the plot.
At last we have had a substantial amount of rain to wet the dry surface layers of the soil, where the seedlings have been struggling to get off to a good start and take root. Unusually my sowings on the windowsill at home have not come to much fruition either. Many of the seeds failed to sprout and even second sowings at the recommended time of planting by the moon are making slow progress, no doubt partly due to the cool weather conditions this last week. There has also been another notorious and persistently disruptive obstacle to my gardening, and that is the fox. Undeterred by chicken-wire and hard wire mesh, this animal makes great holes in the soft, freshly dug earth after I have sown seeds in it. Another plot-holder recounted that he sometimes finds whole eggs buried by a fox in the ground. Who knows where it might be stealing them from?
Like the comfrey, the artichokes have grown immensely tall in a short space of time and several of the globes are now almost ready to eat. The broad beans and potatoes too are looking promising for a plentiful harvest and crops of strawberries and radishes are providing early pickings for the summer menu.

Final Chapter of Spring


At a glance the plot continues to look a brownish colour over much of the space, save for the herb and fruit areas, which are now bursting to life and there is clear evidence that things are on the brink of rapid change. In the past few weeks it has been the turn of the beautiful apple blossom to unveil a final chapter of spring. For some, however, summer does not begin until the solstice around June 21st, although traditionally May 1st was the start of summer, hence the Maypole celebrations. This is a time when the soil has warmed up and sowing and planting can begin again.
My own preparations for the growing season have been made somewhat easier this year by the fact that we have not had a lot of rain. In previous years it has been necessary to minimise the amount of work to avoid creating a mud bath, as the site can become extremely waterlogged during the winter months.
The relative dryness of the soil is most likely the reason why a number of Oriental poppy seedlings have appeared once again around the plot. These have sprung from seeds lying dormant in the ground and I leave the plants in situ, since from past experience I know that they do not like to be moved. There are also several California poppies, with their brilliant orange flowers and fine, feathery foliage, which is apparently edible. The flowers close when the sun goes down, as do daisy and dandelion flowers, the latter being one of our most persistent weeds, but also another edible plant with a variety of medicinal properties that I can now harvest again to add to salads.

Preparations for the Growing Season


As the days become longer and variably warmer the allotment is beginning to look prettier and more verdant again. Hyacinths, violets and primroses are in full bloom and I have been harvesting a good crop of purple sprouting broccoli over the last few weeks.
Preparations for the growing season have been more arduous than usual this winter, as I set myself the task of digging out the fruit patch, prickly gooseberry bushes and all. This is an area that had never been properly cleared since I acquired the plot in 2001. Couch grass roots had woven their way through layers of woodchip and old plastic compost bags laid down as mulch to help suppress the weeds. The grass, known to be cursed by gardeners and blessed by herbalists, has been used for thousands of years due to its antibiotic health benefits and high mucilage content. I clean the roots, cut them into smaller pieces before boiling them in water to make into a tea. The plant’s medicinal properties also explain why dogs often eat couch grass when they are feeling unwell.
The gooseberry bushes appear to be none the worse for having been uprooted and re-planted and the remainder of the bed has been given to three new raspberries of the variety ‘Erika’. These fruit twice, once in early summer and a second time in the autumn. The berries apparently grow large and juicy but hold their firmness. They will, however, need to be netted, along with the gooseberries and redcurrants, to avoid the fruit being robbed by birds, which may otherwise only be deterred by a passing cat or fox when we humans are not around.

Winter Chores


One of a few suggestions for winter gardening chores in a newspaper article I read at the beginning of January was to get the mower mended. I have a petrol mower that I use to cut the grass on the paths surrounding my plot and whilst being a very efficient machine once it gets going, it often has trouble starting. Having arranged for the mower to be collected one morning I arrived early enough to see the place covered in a sparkling frost. By mid morning this had almost all melted away under a clear blue sky, with gulls and pigeons flying up high overhead and a pair of robins singing from tree branches close by.
With little to do when the ground is frozen other than pile up more muck as mulch on the beds and pick kale leaves and cabbage, I headed off again after a couple of hours.
The mower repair man gave me advice to leave the mower running at the start of winter to use up the remaining petrol, as this apparently does not keep well and so the water/condensation sinks to the bottom causing problems with the engine starting.
As with most green spaces at this time of year, the allotment is at its least attractive but a garden that has caught my attention on one of my cycle journeys to work is Meanwhile Gardens in North Kensington, close to Trellick Tower. An area facing the road opened last summer in celebration of the garden’s fortieth anniversary and still looks striking during winter with evergreen plants and flowers in borders outlined with brick paths and areas of grass. The gardens were created out of four acres of wasteland to be used as a community garden by a sculptor called James McCullough in 1976, with temporary permission from Westminster Council, hence the name Meanwhile. In the summer I may explore the gardens further along meandering paths away from the road. On the far side is the canal on which I regularly see a family of swans and even a large heron was there one morning.