Forest Voices – Saturday 16th December, 2023

It’s not quite the end of the year, but all the signs are there. Short days, bare trees, and few birds. Today, we have our mince pies, mulled wine and carols from Forest Voices who have grown in number from last time I heard them. Their volume swells through the garden with old carols and pops. We have a good crowd, with a garden search for children and art too. The mince pies and mulled wine are very welcome.

Today, the sun rose at 07.59 and sets at 15.51. That’s a day of 7 hours and 52 minutes, almost as short as it will get, as the winter solstice is in a few days. Though, daylight, if we mean when can see without artificial light, is perhaps 8½ hours. As a little before dawn and a little after sunset, there is some light.

I assist The Theatre Royal outreach worker plant a cherry in the garden today. It is a sapling, just over a metre high. The tree is bare rooted. No problem this time of year, when the tree is dormant. The hole had been dug the day before. I brought over a wheelbarrow of compost and we plant it, heeling it well in. It is always gratifying planting a tree. Hopefully, it will outlive me, if the garden becomes permanent of course, and will sequester carbon year on year, so vital in these days of Climate Emergency.

The Community Garden has been awarded People Powered Places money, £20,000. The last step in the process, to get the grant, was the number of votes a group could gather for its project. And on the count came the money. We were the most popular group in terms of votes, which is pleasing, as it means local people like what we are doing. Democracy though can be a fickle animal, as what if you are worthwhile but just not popular enough? Or if you are not that worthwhile, but have a big following?

15 out of 33 groups got sufficient votes to get their grant.  They are:

Forest Gate Community Garden                                            322 votes

Ashok’s Vision                                                                       309

MBG Youth Fitness                                                                288

Lighting for a Safer Town Centre (Emmanuel Church)         275

Godwin Wellbeing for All                                                      271

The Up Garden                                                                       247

Feeding Newham                                                                    240

Art and Dance at Forest Gate Festival                                   224

Save Our Street Planters                                                        218

Gazebos for the Community                                                  167

What’s the Point – School Knife Crime Project                    166

Maryland Grow For All                                                          155

Nature Builders                                                                      138

Br8ke the Silence- mental health support                              135

Arbery Pottery – come play with clay                                    132

What would a judging panel have come up with? Any better? Or not? I was involved with the Forest Gate Festival bid, and was uncertain that art and dance would pick up the votes. Or was the festival itself popular enough? We are in the middle, so popular enough. But you really don’t know till the count is in.

Save Our Street Planters, while not being the garden itself, is allied to us. They will use our tools and storage. Street planters can get very untidy, some being used as rubbish bins and ash trays. Hopefully, by keeping them tidy, watered, and varying the planting, they will be more appreciated.

But it is all systems go for the garden. Having been awarded, the £20 thousand grant, now we must spend it. Essentially, it is going on a covered area by the container and centre stage, and for paths that are wheelchair accessible. The grant must be spent by the end of 2024.

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