Derek – Friday 8th May 2020

I am watching from the community garden as a bulldozer rips out the white buddleia on the next door site. I am mesmerized by the sound and fury. It is so quick, in no time much of the large shrub is flying in the jaws of the beast. Ten seconds, in a piercing engine growl, and the shrub is out of the ground, leafy and vibrant, not knowing it is done for. But by tomorrow, all the leaves will have shrivelled and the broken roots dried out.

A small clearance on a building site that will have 120 flats when completed. Every tree and shrub will go in the process. Most have already gone. Gateway Housing Association say they will landscape, so there’ll be some replanting.

So it goes.

In 1888 the land surrounding Earlham Grove was fields, owned by the Gurney family. That includes what is now Forest Gate Community Garden. The land was sold to developers who didn’t hang around. There was money to be made. They ripped out the hedgerows and fences, cut down any trees in the way. No machinery then, just men with wheelbarrows, horses and carts, continuing a process that had been going on for centuries.

Once Forest Gate was actually woodland, part of a huge Epping Forest. There’s a map, dated around 1050, showing the area was full of trees. But a map of 1777 shows Epping Forest stopping at what is now Wanstead Flats, then called Lower Forest. So, in the roughly 700 years between, Forest Gate was cleared, piecemeal, for farming. And in 1888, our bit of farmland was sold on for housing. The developers knew this was a winning ticket. The railway got you to Liverpool Street in 30 minutes! Earlham Grove would sell off in no time.

So it goes.

People must be housed. And you can’t build flats on top of shrubs and trees, but it is painful to see them ripped out by these massive earth movers. Maybe it is the speed that hurts. Men with wheelbarrows and axes would get to the same point. It would just take days, and it would certainly be quieter.

As the building work goes on, they will come for our pergola. Gateway say they need access, and so they will need to take a two metre strip of our garden. That strip goes from the front gate almost to our container. The Council, the owner of our garden, have agreed. So it will soon be goodbye, pergola. We will need to find space for the potted plants, and just squeeze in somewhat. We are moving the snail mosaic near the middle door. Gateway will make us a new front door, well, they are taking more than half of what we now have away. We’ll get some paving from them too, and other bits and pieces, and maybe in about 2 years’ time a new pergola. But who can say, in these murky days?

We have videoed another walk round the garden, concentrating on spring flowers. Less doomladen than the above, but a community garden cannot ignore what is going on around us. Here’s the link:


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