Two judges for London in Bloom came to assess our garden on July 5th, a beautiful summer’s day. There was quite a crowd as Bumps & Babies were there, as well as a number of well-wishers. All that week, we’d been sprucing up the garden, finishing with a fresh layer of woodchip. Sophie and Steve spoke to the two judges about our layout and planting, and our aims as a community garden. The judges were each given a copy of our booklet ‘Summertime’. I had a brief word with them as they were leaving. The judges looked happy, a good sign. They told me that we were the fourth community garden they had visited that day.

Last Friday, the London in Bloom awards ceremony was held at the Mile End Arts Pavilion. The results at last! I attended the ceremony with Barbara Mackenzie to represent the Garden. The awards covered the 32 London boroughs and the City and were for much more than community gardens, including: parks, commons, cemeteries, country parks, walled gardens, town centres and so forth.

Our category, ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’, was the first one in a long programme. There were more than 100 entries in this category from all over London. We had no idea how we would fare. It was a sort of fingers-crossed Oscars.

The awards for community gardens began at the lowest level, Level 1, which was labelled ‘Establishing’. We certainly didn’t want this, as it merely meant you had a garden. And we were relieved when we weren’t announced. On to Level 2: designated ‘Improving’. A little higher, but surely we could do better? We weren’t announced, a relief to know we weren’t tail-enders. Then it was Level 3. ‘Advancing’, hardly fitting us as this was our first year of entry. Though it wouldn’t be bad if we got it. But we were not listed.

The awards ceremony went on to Level 4, ‘Thriving’. That would be fine for us. Just one below the top level, a pretty good place to be. But then we received an email saying we were not in ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ but another category. So I dropped my concentration, as it would be some time before they got to us. On went the awards to Level 5, ‘Outstanding’, the highest class, and suddenly, I caught the words: Forest Gate Community Garden.

Hey! That’s us!

We hurried up to the stage (we were seated at one of the back tables) to be given our award and photographed. The photo is on the Home page of this website.

Gratified at having received a top award, we stayed a few hours longer, as it would be impolite to leave and not applaud other categories. We left at 2.30 pm, having had a good lunch, and went to our garden, to tell them the good news. The garden was still open; we showed the framed certificate to anyone who cared to look. Outstanding! A pat on the back for everyone who has kept the garden up to the mark over the years. It’s a lot to live up to, but we’ll worry about that next year.

Before I close this blog, I must mention the break in the weather. The drought is over. This was signalled by Tuesday’s deluge: a month’s rain in a day. Before it, we had little water left in our barrels. The irony is, now they are filling up again, we probably won’t need them. The garden is vibrant, enlivened by the rainfall. At the rear, by our wall of doors, is an enthusiastic clump of Japanese anemones, living up to the accolade ‘Outstanding’.