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Planting hope

“I wish that I knew my neighbours,” I said to my friend Gesù as we caught up over a virtual coffee in late February. After a year of being inside and connecting via screens, the longing for in-person connections felt all too real. The feeling was highlighted by the fact that after living Shepherd's Bush for almost five years I barely knew my downstairs neighbours – let alone the people across the street.

That afternoon I was taking a walk when I passed by the Adelaide Grove corners. Slowly I had been seeing these spaces transform. Each time I passed there were new plants. Welcome signs of progress and change during a year that felt like a constant loop of déjà vu. The evolution of these gardens brought a sense of hope. Nature doesn’t stand still – even when it feels like our lives have been paused.

Feeling inspired by the conversation with Gesù an hour before, I decided to stop and say hello – to thank this green-thumbed group for their work and efforts in making our shared spaces nicer. More welcoming. For showing pride in our shared home.

I remember the encounter well – Mark and Danielle were turning over soil – and immediately said that I was welcome to join. “No skill is necessary,” Mark said, “just enthusiasm and interest.” I had plenty of that – and having grown tiny gardens on my windowsills I was looking forward to getting down in the dirt.

Mark directed me across the street to Maria, who welcomed me with a warm smile and an invitation to join the WhatsApp group. “It gets quite chatty,” Maria mentioned before adding my number, “are you okay with that?” I eagerly nodded, and with that I went from not knowing any of my neighbours to being connected to more than twenty of them. All in a day – if that’s not magic, I’m not sure what is.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that since joining the buzzing Green Project Shepherd's Bush community my life has changed. In addition to meeting some incredible people, from all walks of life, I have learned so much about simple gardening techniques. I’ve picked up ways to lead a greener life right in the middle of one of the world’s busiest cities.

“If you take banana peels and add them to a jar full of water you can use them as fertiliser. Your blooms will be extra vibrant,” Maria taught me as she dipped her hand into her bag full of green goodies she brough from her kitchen. Coffee grounds are also good – and eggshells can be buried to create compost “in situ” – straight in the ground.

This style of gardening is unfussy and thrifty – as a result, the garden is in a constant state of flux as plants are donated, along with seeds, bricks and pots. Every gift is welcome – appreciated and upcycled. If you take a closer look at the hand painted signs (another one of Maria’s personal touches) that dot the landscape, you’ll find plants, trees and corners dedicated to the people who made this space what is it – the community members. Everyone is welcome.

The impact that this has had on my mental and emotional wellbeing is immeasurable. One of my favourite days was spent weeding – the very act of being close to the earth, tilling the soil, and making space for new growth is an exercise in renewal.

For an initiative that only started less than a year ago, the transformation is remarkable, and I feel so grateful to be a part of it. I now know my neighbours. The best places to plant mint. And how to turn compost.

I look forward to what the next season will bring and to what we can grow – together.
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