Welcome to Abbey Gardens, a community garden in West Ham
surrounding part of the ruins of a
12th century abbey.

There are free garden club sessions and new gardeners are always welcome. The garden is open to visitors from dawn till dusk.


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In the garden:

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Gardening sessions take place on
Tuesdays 1pm-3pm
Thursdays 4pm-7pm
Saturdays 10am-4pm

Design

A mobile house at Manor school … coming to the garden

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2nd and 3rd year Students from the architecture department of London Metropolitan University (LMU) are using Abbey Gardens and its surrounding area as the site for a year long study into alternative student accommodation. As part of which they built a small mobile structure entirely made of found and recycled materials. The delightful room has kindly been donated to Abbeys Gardens and hopefully will furnish the Harvest Garden when it is up and running next month.

In the meantime the room is on a residency at the Manor School which is a short walk away from the garden. The LMU students together with Chris Cavalier (the garden club leader) ran a couple of planting workshops with the student and hopefully started what will be a ongoing and long lasting relationship between school and garden.

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Students of Manor School planting their first seeds

while meetings are ongoing …

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A short update on some of the many meetings that are happening (nearly daily) to get the Harvest Garden off the ground.

With all the match funding confirmed we now focus (some of) our attention on the second phase of the community spaces application. We had our follow meeting with Saima Iqbal our facilitator to update her on the progress and let her know about changes to the original application. Still a lot of items to tick off – but fingers crossed it should be ready for submission in early June.

Nina, Karen (somewhere) and Sharon (Newham) have been extremely busy getting all the re-mediation works on the way. Which hopefully will start in 2 weeks time!!! I have lost track of all the meetings, emails and phone calls that are going backwards and forwards.

Dorian Moore is busy setting up the first phase of a ‘What will the harvest be’ website and plant database.

And last but not least, Chris Cavalier has been appointed Garden Club Leader after a shortlist of 3 candidates have been interviewed by Liz Shearer (Newham, Parks) Nina Pope & Karen Guthrie (somewhere) and Andreas Lang (FOAG). – Welcome Chris! – who you will be seeing on site very shortly (or he might be knocking on your door holding a pack of seed).

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Chris Cavalier getting familiar with the site.

Green light for green space in historic Abbey Gardens

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photo:Newham Mag

Abbey Gardens and What Will the Harvest Be made it onto the Newham Website

going forward, meeting up

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With the Harvest Garden 09 gaining momentum we are planning two meetings in the coming weeks to keep everyone up to date with the latest developments.

Meet the artists
On the 5th of April from 1.30 to 13.00 the artists Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie from Somewhere.org.uk will present the latest plans for the Harvest Garden – free seeds will be available. The meeting is followed by the ‘Three Mills Loop’ walk which is led by Gordon Joly.

Friends of Abbey Gardens meeting
On the 26th of April the Friends of Abbey Gardens invite all current and future members to a further progress meeting. You will have a chance to sign up for gardening in the new garden which will start later on in the year. More free seeds will be given out and some drinks and snacks will be served.

Both meeting will take place at Abbey Gardens.
Looking forward to see you all there.

moving forward fast . . . to meet the planting deadline in May!

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Following our successful meeting with Mark Perkins and the local Councillors we had a follow on meeting to discuss technical details of how to proceed.

After some back and forth and weighing up the options we tentatively decided to take the plunge (if that is possible) and aim for delivery of the Harvest Garden in time for this years planting season (mid/end May 2009) – providing we can overcome a few technicalities in a increasingly short space of time … among other things:

– we need to obtain approval The LDA (London Development Authority) to use the funds ear marked for the abbey gardens site to remediate the site using the Harvest Garden proposal by somewhere.org.uk.
– get other funds approved (Community Spaces & Local Fund)
– get English Heritage consent for the scheme and liaise with DCMS.
– approve the re-mediation strategy with the environmental department of Newham council.
– re-mediate the site with a membrane and 200mm of topsoil while at the same time levelling it to take the raised beds (which are needed as part of the re-mediation if we want to grow food on site).
– commission app 1km of raised beds to be build and installed.
– get everyone ready for gardening . . . .

The alternative would be to finish the garden for a later date in the year and miss the chance for some productive gardening (and harvesting) or postpone it for another year. Both scenarios we would desperately like to avoid.

May here we come!

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Karen Guthrie (somewhere), Dasha French (FOAG), Nina Pope (somewhere) and Ceri Lewis (Modus Operandi) after the meeting in front of the old Stratford town hall. Apologies for the bad picture and for excluding half the meeting. (Mark Perkins, Sharon Swift and Nick Eley all had to run off before I remembered my camera).

Latest DLR drawings for Abbey Road Station and other tales …

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Waiting to meet Skanska Grant Rail to find out more about the planned works . . . .

Attached the latest and approved drawings for the Abbey Road DLR station.
Depressing as it is – our comments made during the consulation in regards to access seem to have been ignored in the latest design – though a meeting with DLR is scheduled to clarify this.
To download the drawings click here -> dlr-planning-drawings.pdf (beware they are 35MB)

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The Drawings came to us via Newham. We are still hoping to get some further documents from DLR which conclude the outcome from the various consultations that should have ‘informed’ the design. Getting the information to fully understand what changes are being made to ones immediate environment is like drawing blood from a stone. One wonders why it is so difficult to get straight answers. I spent most of my week writing emails to DLR and to Newham bit by bit piecing together fragments of information. A disappointing highlight so far was a meeting with Skanska Grant Rail (the company working on behalf of DLR) After taking time off work to make the meeting we were presented with two difficult to read drawings and with no clear explanation of what they were showing. An increasingly frustrating process of mining for information. One can’t help but getting disheartened. Though in fairness Skanska promptly arrange a follow on meeting with DLR to get full clarification.
I am looking forward to more positive things like picking an apple or harvesting some seeds.

A similar journey of enquiry regarding the context works surrounding the new station ended with a very clear email from Murray Woodburn, Consultant Transport Planner, Olympics and Major Development, Public Realm and Transportation. (see below) it captures the the current state of affairs quite well. Again things are different to what we were let to believe but at least it is a clear and straight forward answer – yet again it took a hole string of emails to get to those answers.


Dear Mr Lang

Shelley has been copying me your various emails on this subject and I though it would be easier to liaise with you directly.

OPTEMS (Olympic Park Transport and Environmental Mitigation Schemes) is a fund made available by ODA to the five host Boroughs for schemes which will mitigate against the adverse environmental and transport effects of the Olympic Park, both during construction and games-time. (A further separate fund will be made available later for any mitigations required in legacy mode).

The five Boroughs have been invited to prepare bids for a share of the OPTEMS fund – which is around £15m in total. While the majority of this fund will be allocated to bids which have a direct transport and environmental benefit (eg junction improvements etc), a proportion will be available for more aesthetic streetscape improvements, provided that a linkage to the Olympic Park can be demonstrated.

As part of a strategy to maximise the use of public transport for journeys to and from the Olympic Park and to improve access to public transport nodes, the Council is preparing bids for so-called ‘context works’ for Stratford High Street, Star Lane, Abbey Road and West Ham DLR stations. Realistically, the OPTEMS bids being prepared cannot match the costings prepared in the earlier feasibility work – as there are more pressing schemes with more demonstrable linkages to environmental and transport mitigations. As a result, the proposed bid to OPTEMS for Abbey Road DLR is for £250k. Bidding tactics dictate that an attempt to bid for the entire costed amount would be likely to be unsuccessful and we have a greater chance of success with a smaller bid.

While the bid is currently loosely described as ‘streetscape improvements to facilitate access to the new DLR station’, this is aimed specifically at pedestrians and cyclists, and therefore does not preclude measures to mitigate against the adverse impacts of increased vehicular traffic around the station. I also note that you have concerns over drop-off at the station. Our intention is to monitor the drop-off activity at all the new Stratford Extension stations, and in the event that it becomes a problem, then we will consult with the local community over the introduction of parking and waiting restrictions around the station to discourage this. However, at present, we are not convinced this will be a major issue for a minor station like Abbey Road – but as I say it will be monitored by the Council. I am sure that should a problem develop, you and your fellow residents will make sure we know about it promptly and quick action can be taken.

Regarding bid priorities, there is no priority, inferred or otherwise, in our bid submissions to ODA – and these range from bus priority and bus service improvements to disabled crossing upgrades at signal controlled junctions. The ODA assessment panel will determine the priority for themselves and allocate the fund on that basis. I can therefore offer no guarantee that our bid will be successful. This will depend on the other schemes submitted by the other Boroughs for ODA consideration. However, I can assure you that we will make every effort to enhance the bid to maximise its chances of success.

It should also be noted that this will not be our only chance to secure funding for Abbey Road, as there is a parallel process known as the ‘Multi-Agency Agreement’ where a substantially larger pot of money is available for environmental and other enhancement around the fringes of the Olympic Park. This fund is specifically aimed at reducing the ‘cliff edge’ effect of the newly constructed and aesthetically pleasing Olympic Park with its somewhat scruffy environs. The bid process for this has only begun recently, and my colleague John Herman from the Newham 2012 Unit is assisting in the compilation of this – as it has a more cross-departmental remit than OPTEMS.

Should we be successful in obtaining funding from any source, there would then follow a consultation process on the scheme with local residents to ensure that local aspirations are met as well as possible with the available funds.

Finally, regarding timescales, bid preparation to OPTEMS is underway now with a view to submission in mid/late March. However, it is unclear how long the ODA decision process might be before monies are allocated to the successful bids – so I cannot tell you when a definitive decision will be available.

I hope this addresses some of your queries, and if I can be of any further help during the bidding process or thereafter, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Kind regards

Murray Woodburn

Murray Woodburn
Consultant Transport Planner
Olympics and Major Development
Public Realm and Transportation

and a follow on email read:

I’m afraid the attached drawing probably is redundant unless we can pool funds from a number of different sources to fund it. At the moment it is probably just a starting point for a revised proposal to suit the funds we have available.

And there is no scheme available to look at yet – as only a successful bid will allow for the detailed working up of any new proposal. However, on the plus side, it may allow for greater input from residents if a ‘new’ scheme is developed following a successful bid.

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See also earlier entry from April 5th, 2007

(btw – access to Abbey Gardens is still blocked)

What Will the Harvest Be? on dlr art

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Karen discovered this entry on the dlr site . I wonder how long it has been there before we noticed. DLR did contribute to the original arts commission. But since then they have really not had any further input. Hopefully its a good sign to see them advertising the project – maybe they will take some further responsibility – it would be much appreciated…. maybe we should write a letter….

Building the first (test) raised bed & compost

Louis made this time laps of our efforts on Saturday.
Unfortunately the batteries ran out and the time laps stops early.
below an image of Louis and the compost he build with Nina.

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photo: Nina Pope

Nina on top of the world

Nina made it up onto the top of the tower and took some really nice images of the site and the area. They are all up on flickr and worth a visit.

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Setting out the harvest garden

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Tim marking out the raised beds.

Lots of worms in the earth under the apple tree Untangling the string in the rain Louise fixing the string to the pegs p1030772.jpg

Despite the rain early on we made some good progress setting out the layout for the harvest garden on site. First with bright yellow string and then spraying the outlines in white.
We did not quite finish but most of it is done. It already raised many questions on how the raised beds should or could be designed to accommodate the gentle contours of the ground.

more photos on the abbey gardens flickr page which are worth checking out.

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Louise, Karen, Tim and Lydia setting out raised beds and the walkway in between them.

Ali and his special gardening shoes Louis marking out the beds break time - and discussing the smallest raised bed in the world Ali Parvin and Azadeh feeding the apple tree Nina with string coming out of her head