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.


In the garden:

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


Hands-on Urbanism 1850 – 2012

Abbey Gardens is included in an interesting exhibition about Hands-on urbanism which will open in Vienna at the Architecture Centre on the 14th of March 2012. If you are around please drop in, have a look and let us know what you think. (address below)

”Hands-on / practical, involving action, based on active participation
Urbanism / urbanization; the culture and way of life of urban dwellers

Hands-on urbanism, bottom-up urbanism and irregular urbanization are not the exception to the rule – they are driving forces behind the urban development and often behind changes in urban policy. From the onset of industrialization, first in Europe and North America and then in the Southern hemisphere, to today’s neoliberal, developer-driven global city, the history of urban transformation processes unfolds as a sequence of critical situations. Gardening and informal settling are indicative of these crises. Taking root from below, these self-organized, self-help practices are dynamic and inspiring agencies of change” (Elke Krasny, curator)

In conjunction with the exhibition a book is published in German with Turia + Kant Verlag, Vienna and in English with MCCM Creations, Hongkong. The book contains 26 essays, including new texts, but also reprints of texts by Jane Addams and John F.C. Turner 356 pages, 300 photographs. Hopefully you can find a copy of the book in the Abbey Gardens library very soon.

Also accompanying the exhibition is a very interesting programme of events.
You can download the PDF flyer here.

Architekturzentrum Wien
Museumsplatz 1 im
1070 Wien, Österreich
T +43 1 522 31 15
F +43 1 522 31 17

The early days on film

Nina and Karen from Somewhere have made this wonderful film about the beginnings of the garden and the ‘What Will the Harvest be?‘ project, capturing the first season in which the garden was build up until the first harvest. It was made for and will be included in Somewhere’s current project the floating cinema which is touring the canals around the Olympic site at this very moment.

The floating cinema will join Abbey Gardens for our Harvest Festival on the 17th of September as a highlight and conclusion to the floating cinmas day long event: ‘The Green East: Garden Tours and Harvest Festival’

somewhere presenting Abbey Gardens at the RCA

Nina and Karen from somewhere presented What Will the Harvest be? at the Sustain Talks held at the Royal College of Art in November 2010. You can now watch it on the RCA website.

Click here to view the video of the presentation

Here is a little info on the Sustain Talks series:

Sustainable art and design at the Royal College of Art
Sustain is a showcase for the work, issues and arguments that relate to the ever-more-complex arena of sustainability within the Royal College of Art. The RCA offers a unique forum: we can open up and explore issues without the pressure solely to present solutions; and we bring the ‘systems’-thinking creativity of cross-disciplinary discussion to the presentation and discussion of sustainable practice in art and design disciplines.

Sustainability represents a key emerging institutional need across the creative and cultural industries. Our goal at the RCA is to inspire and challenge a new creative generation across the UK to embrace and address sustainability in their work, demonstrating how principles of sustainability and responsibility can fuel innovation, and support and enhance real-world strategies for change.

Things to make and do

Abbey Gardens card making session

If youd like to get creative, join our card making workshop on Saturday 6 November from 11am-12noon. Well be using pressed flowers and other garden-related things.

Call-out for calendar pictures

Were producing our first ever calendar so send us your favourite pictures of Abbey Gardens. Funny vegetable sculptures, wonderful wildlife, comedy carrots – pictures that tell the story of our gardening year. Please email your high-resolution JPEGs to a href=mailto:lydia@thornley.co.uk Lydia/a by 3 November. And if your pictures contain people, please make sure that theyre people you know and can contact so that they (or if theyre children, their parents) can give us written permission to use their picture. Well put pictures up in the cabin on 6 November for votes at the monthly meeting.

Monthly meeting

Our monthly meeting will be on 6 November at 2pm in the cabin. Or if were feeling particularly-hardy, outside.

Our winter event

Look out for news of our winter event in late November – date to be confirmed soon.

FOAG on show at Stratford Library


What Will the Harvest Be? at Abbey Gardens is beautiful as well as productive.
Its constantly-changing plants, visiting wildlife and light have had us reaching for
our cameras. Our pictures record the garden, help us spread the word and add
to the plant database. This exhibition tells the story of the garden and shows pictures
by members of Friends of Abbey Gardens.
Stratford Library 3 The Grove London E15 1EL 19 April – 8 May 2010




We are seeking an enthusiastic and self-motivated person with a passion for getting people (of all ages) gardening and enjoying plants. They must also have an interest in and empathy with the innovative vision for the garden. The successful candidate will be a local advocate for the project and must be a self-organiser as they will work largely independently at the site. They should be prepared to work flexibly: They may perhaps structure themed activities for certain days, or otherwise redefine the Club’s sessions to meet the demands of the site users and the ambitions of the project. They must be available throughout the project period at the agreed Club opening times (cover is available for up to 2 weeks absence by prior arrangement). The Leader will be responsible to and employed directly by the Friends of Abbey Gardens who work closely with the artists and London Borough of Newham to realise the project.

Deadline for applications – 5th of March 2010
Announcement of shortlist – 8th of March 2010
interview date – 10th of March 2010
Immediate start preferable


A heartfelt plea for labels, archives and the like – by Karen Guthrie

now growing

I read with interest recently, this news story about the rediscovery of a long lost gardener’s notebook at the historic Ickworth House, which has unlocked countless mysteries for the present gardeners – said one: 
”It means that we don’t have to make blind guesses and can now be really true to how Ickworth was created to be in future work. Any gardener would kill for this kind of information, it’s amazing to think it’s just been sitting there all these years.’

Acclaimed garden writer Noel Kingsbury also made a recent heartfelt appeal for information, in the journal of the Hardy Plant Society. It seems scarcely believable to keen gardeners that such information does not exist in the public domain and yet all that Noel seeks to collate (for PHD research towards improving the diversity of planting in public space, I believe) is straightforward feedback from amateur gardeners about which herbaceous plants do well in their gardens and why. It seems so simple doesn’t it? But this kind of word-of-mouth knowledge is rarely if ever written down, and – despite many good garden blogs – as the knowledge generally rests with the older generation, we don’t see it online much either. Gardening books, naturally, are written by experts who delight in nurturing horticultural delicacies and seldom do they feature the kind of adhoc grassroots gardening most of us practice.

Now, the knowledgeable / nerdy (like me) amongst you will know of the extensive field trials done by the Royal Hortcultural Society in their gardens, which often lead to the coveted ‘AGM’ award being given to the best and most ‘gardenworthy’ of tested plants. The thing about these trials though, is that they are carried out in one of only a small handful of geographically diverse locations by – and there’s the rub – professional gardeners, not mere mortals like you and I with other things on their minds and in their lives: Yes, occasionally even RHS gardens suffer drought, pests and disease but on the whole these trials offer optimum conditions whereas what most of us offer plants is just-about-getting-away-with-it care.

Now, many Abbey Garden-ers this year have had to put up with Nina and I’s insistent mantra “Always label your plants!”, and behind the scenes with Chris Cavalier and Dorian Moore we have busied ourselves on an expansive database of all our plants and their cultivation, on this very website. It takes a lot of work, but then it holds a lot of information, much of which can be ‘automatically’ retrieved online in future years of growing. Web site users can wander bed to bed online, looking at what’s growing, when it’s been harvested and what it looks like. 
This doesn’t sound like rocket science but believe you me, when you spend as much time as I do looking at other garden websites you realise how few ever get round to as much as a plant list – only this year did the National Trust (an organisation relatively rich in resources) even attempt to begin a nationwide plant survey of their properties, which include iconic influential gardens like Sissinghurst.

As a gardener myself, I know from experience how hard it is to force yourself to find a pen and label when you’re out, muddy handed and enjoying the actual physical action of gardening. You always think you’ll remember it later and get round to it. You almost never do. Multiply this minor act of human frailty by the number of us active at Abbey Gardens and then add it to all the other gardens in the world and you have a mass amnesia costing us much hardwon wisdom… 
At least the Ickworth House story shows us that we are not alone!

(One of my favourite Christopher Lloyd stories involves a garden visitor asking him – on his hands and knees weeding – the name of a rare and treasured plant in his borders. Christopher :”Do you have a pen and paper?”. Her: “No, but I’ll remember it” Him: “You won’t. So I’m not telling”)

But IMHO the point of labelling and taking note of harvesting dates etc is less to do with making sure people know they’re pulling a carrot out and not a parsnip and more to do with the bigger picture: 

When I garden anywhere I am blissfully aware of my microcosmic act of communion with a tiny part of the macrocosm of Planet Earth. I love the physical and immediate aspects of soil, roots, tools and seeds, but then I also increasingly realise that the temporal is counterbalanced with a desire to share this experience, contribute to a global ecology, develop networks with like-minded people and organisations, and leave behind a lasting legacy of the trial and error and successes of my lifetime’s gardening. 
Opening my garden for the National Garden Scheme, giving talks, blogging and projects such as WWTHB? are all part of this ambition.

Moreover, I have a strong belief that what seems like minor ephemera today changes to gold-dust in a hundred year’s time – again look at the Ickworth notebook, probably considered a casual aide-memoire by the gardener of the day (who almost certainly had his ranks of careful plant labels removed during the neccessary vandalism of the wartime ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign that turned all country gardens into allotments). Little did he know that a century later the information within would be the only record of his travails.

Blogs, websites et al can be the gardener’s notebooks of our times. Yes, they’re harder to update if your hands are muddy and your laptop’s back at home. But their advantage is beyond the imaginings of any Victorian gardener: they can connect effortlessly with anyone else who is interested. Over the years I’ve had some fascinating conversations with Dorian Moore our web programmer, about the future of the WWW, how the increasing fluidity between sites like Flickr and Google Earth has the potential to create accurate biodiversity maps of unprecedented detail, showing and archiving plant distribution through space and time, something scientists and researchers have attempted and failed to do for centuries. The impact of this in the uncertain, climate-changed future will be immense. It’s what the web was made to do and it’s up to us to get on with it so that future generations aren’t left looking for the notebook behind the garden shed.

Sites like WWTHB? already contribute to academic and scientific knowledge about biodiversity and horticultural practices – they are historic documents in the making, without which all of our combined efforts at Abbey Gardens remain part of a local, oral history – fascinating and valuable, but frail and gone when we are.

Karen Guthrie, Dec 2009

The writing on the wall …… is looking great!

The writing on the wall.

The brand new sign alone is worth a trip down to the garden. You can’t miss it!
Installed by Andy with support from Nina, produced by Formet.

What will the planting be?


If you want to get a taste for next years harvest you can have a look at the planting plan for 2010.
The document is best viewed by downloading it and viewing it in a pdf viewer.
Download the planting plan here -> Planting Plan 2010

PRESS RELEASE NOV 2009 – What Will the Harvest Be? at Abbey Gardens


wwthb_portacabin_lowres.jpg photo: Nina Pope

To download the latest press release click here -> Press Release Nov 2009
If you have further questions of require full resolution images please email us

Press release
for immediate release

Volunteers invited to plant our fruit wall Sat Jan. 16th, 10.30am – 3.30pm
Friends of Abbey Gardens and artists Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope invite you to join them for their first gardening event of 2010 – the planting of 30 young fruit trees in their East London public garden as part of the visionary project What Will the Harvest Be?

The wall-trained trees are the crowning glory of this unique open-access ‘harvest garden’ where literally anyone may learn about, grow and harvest fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers.

What Will the Harvest Be? at Abbey Gardens, West Ham is a communally-gardened vegetable and flower garden initiated by Friends of Abbey Gardens, a dynamic group of local residents living on the adjacent Baker’s Row, a stone’s throw from the 2012 Olympic site. The residents challenged London Borough of Newham (LBN) to halt the neglect of the overgrown third of an acre / 1600 sq m plot, protected from development by its notable historic ruins, to which English Heritage has awarded Scheduled Ancient Monument status. The remains span from those of a 12th C Cistercian abbey gatehouse to the foundations of terraced homes of the late 19th C and are a prominent feature within the new garden. London Borough of Newham rose to the challenge and provided both funding and active support from its Engagement Officer and West Ham Councillors.

The What Will the Harvest Be? project was designed by artists Karen Guthrie & Nina Pope of Somewhere, commissioned to come up with how both plants and people could grow together. The artists, who are both garden enthusiasts, designed bespoke raised beds in a formal, triangular layout inspired by the local ‘Plaistow Landgrabbers’, an early 20th century land squatter group whose ‘Triangle Camp’ picture is emblazoned life-size on the Abbey Gardens shed. The artists also recruited Chris Cavalier, a young performing arts graduate and gardener who has led free garden club sessions at the site since April.

Event details
Abbey Gardens, Bakers Row, London E15 3NF
Volunteers are advised to bring lunch and to wear stout shoes and warm clothes including gloves.
Tools are provided. New participants for 2010 are always welcome.

E mail@abbeygardens.org
High-resolution pictures available from somewhere.org.uk
E artists@somewhere.org.uk

Notes to editors
Though garden landscaping finished only in June 09, the project’s highlights this year included:
– the participation of more than 100 Londoners of all ages in regular free garden club sessions led by leader Chris Cavalier
– a packed Harvest Festival in September, where Observer Food award-winning restauranteur Sam Clark of Moro cooked fresh garden produce for over 150 visitors
– an innovative website showing the more than 150 vegetable and flower varieties planted and harvested by participants, including some brand-new tomato cultivars bred by a volunteer

Plans for the open-access site in 2010 include hosting cookery and social events, growing an experimental tropical fruit selection outdoors, work with local mental health charities and schoolchildren, and distributing excess fresh produce to local groups and businesses.

To date What Will the Harvest Be? has been funded by London Development Agency, London Borough of
Newham, Arts Council England and supported by Chiltern Seeds. In Autumn this year the Friends of Abbey Gardens group made a successful bid to the Community Spaces programme to support on-going development of the garden. The Community Spaces grants programme is being managed by Groundwork UK as an Award Partner to the Big Lottery Fund. Community Spaces is part of the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces initiative.

Community Spaces
Community Spaces is a £50 million open grants programme that is managed by Groundwork UK as an award partner to the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces initiative. The programme helps community groups create or improve green and open spaces so that the quality of life in neighbourhoods across England is enhanced. Only community groups in England are eligible to apply to Community Spaces – a full eligibility criteria is available at www.community-spaces.org.uk. The programme has been open for small and medium grants (£10,000 – £49,999) since March 2008 and will remain open for these sizes of grants until 2011.

Groundwork UK
Groundwork supports communities in need, working with partners to help improve the quality of people’s lives, their prospects and potential and the places where they live, work and play. Our vision is of a society of sustainable communities which are vibrant, healthy and safe, which respect the local and global environment and where individuals and enterprise prosper. For further information visit: www.groundwork.org.uk

Big Lottery Fund
The Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces programme was launched in November 2005 to help communities enjoy and improve their local environments. The programme is funding a range of activities from local food schemes and farmers markets, to education projects teaching people about the environment. Groundwork UK was appointed as a Changing Spaces award partner, responsible for distributing £50 million through its Community Spaces scheme.

The Big Lottery Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888 Out of hours: 07867 500 572
Public enquiries line: 08454 102030 Textphone: 08456 021 659
Full details of the work of the Big Lottery Fund, its programmes and awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk