Community gardening in Laindon

As well as facilitating the Vange Hill Community Group with community cleans up and guerilla gardening on the ¾ estate in Vange, Basildon & Southend Housing Action have also been involved for a number of years in working with residents on the Nursery Gardens estate in Laindon to maintain a community garden. These images were taken after the first major planting and maintenance session of the spring last weekend.

As well as flowers to brighten up the estate, this particular garden has a more serious vegetable growing side to it as well. On an estate where some residents experience issues with food poverty, a community garden dedicated to food production does make a positive difference. It’s these kind of localised vegetable growing beds that we eventually want to see springing up across the ¾ estate in Vange. We’re showing the image above to prove that it can be done on an informal basis.

It can also be done on a more formal setting as this Incredible Edible supported community plot on Mill Green near the shops on the Chalvedon estate in Basildon shows…
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The point is that with increasing food poverty and the uncertainty over food supply that could result from Brexit, there is a need for community gardens that provide fresh food. Not only that, maintaining a garden like this is a good way of building solidarity and neighbourhood resilience.

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A transformation is underway in Gambleside as well:)

In an earlier post – A different way of thinking about community activism – we presented what some may see as a rather ambitious plan to transform the ¾ estate on Vange Hill, located on the southern fringes of Basildon. In a subsequent post – A transformation is underway in Vange Hill:) – we wrote about how this transformation is starting. As you can see from the above image from the Gambleside area of the estate, things are happening there as well.

It’s a simple act of a resident taking a wooden pallet, breaking it down and using its component parts to construct a border around a small patch of land surrounding a tree, making it look tidier. What’s great about this is its symbolic value – it’s sending out a signal that residents care about their close and will put in the time and effort in improving it themselves. This is exactly the kind of autonomous, unilateral action we love! With this and the newly established pocket garden on nearby Swanstead, there are two examples of what DIY guerilla gardening can achieve in making the estate look better.

As we’ve mentioned before, it’s work like this in existing areas of enhancement on the estate that we hope will act as an inspiration to residents elsewhere on Vange Hill. Momentum in achieving this aim is slowly starting to grow. As the weather starts to improve over the spring and into the summer, we look forward to seeing more autonomous, unilateral actions like this springing up across the estate.

What’s really good about this is that the first we knew about it was when we checked the Facebook page of the Vange Hill Community Group and saw the images of the finished job. Basildon & Southend Housing Action had no involvement in this at all in terms of providing materials or facilitating the work. This is exactly what we’re after – independent action by a resident feeling empowered to go out and make a difference to their community.

A transformation is underway in Vange Hill:)


This patch of land on Swanstead had been left as a neglected fly tip until Basildon Council finally cleared it up back in February


This is what residents facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action did on Sunday 8th April to start transforming this patch of land into a community pocket garden

In our previous post – A different way of thinking about community activism – we presented what some may see as a rather ambitious plan to transform the ¾ estate on Vange Hill. As you can see from the above images, residents from the Vange Hill Community Group facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action are making a start on bringing that plan to fruition.

Spring is a time for new beginnings and the opportunity this recently cleared patch of land offered as a symbol of a new beginning on the estate had to be taken. As you can see from the image below, there’s already an area of enhancement on Oldwyk with a small pocket garden. Over in Gambleside, there’s another area that’s getting close attention from residents and has been planted out with bulbs. This patch in Swanstead is between these two locations. If all goes to plan, there will be three areas of enhancement which will hopefully inspire other residents across the estate to start doing the same.

A small pocket garden in and of itself isn’t the revolution. However, the gradual emergence of pocket gardens on an estate that has more than its fair share of problems and which has acquired a bit of a reputation over the years is a sign that change is coming. It’s small, doable low cost projects like this which give people a bit of pride in their community and empower residents that will lay the foundations for more ambitious projects in the future. Projects that will not just change the way the estate looks but also how people interact with each other as a sense of community pride and solidarity is built up.


A volunteer maintaining an existing pocket garden on Oldwyk

Guerilla gardening – just do it!

An idea from the latest print edition of The Estuary Alternative:)



guerrilla gardening

the activity of growing plants without permission on land that belongs to someone else or on public land, with the aim of improving the environment or producing vegetables or flowers for people to use or enjoy

Starting a project to make a change in your neighbourhood can seem to be a daunting prospect. Yes, there are grassroots community projects that are complex and there are probably good reasons for that – changing the world is not an easy business and a degree of organisation is required. However, there are things you can do which don’t require a lot of organisation or hours writing funding applications. Guerilla gardening is one of those things you can do…

If there’s an awkward shaped smallish plot of land in your neighbourhood that’s been neglected and no one’s sure who owns or has responsibility for it, why not do a bit of guerilla gardening? Canvas opinion in the immediate neighbourhood to see how much support there is for the idea of transforming the plot from an eyesore into a community asset. Find out who’s willing to help you work on it and then work out a plan for what you want to do.

You could ask for permission if you want but if the land has been neglected for years, then whoever is responsible for it obviously doesn’t care about the impact of their neglect on your neighbourhood so…just get on with it! There’s a welcome, non-violent anti-authoritarian aspect to guerilla gardening that should be embraced. While at one level, it’s about making your neighbourhood a better place to live, at a more fundamental level, it’s asking questions about land ownership and control.

The other benefits are building a feeling of solidarity and cohesion in your neighbourhood as people get together to work on a common project. A project that as it matures will give people a sense of pride in and responsibility towards their neighbourhood and boost community morale. A confidence booster that can inspire people to take on bigger and more complex projects that will start to lead to real, meaningful change.

Start small, gain confidence, start to think bigger but above all…just do it!

Building a new world in the shell of the old

This is editorial from the latest print edition of The Estuary Alternative.

Our sister project, the South Essex Stirrer, highlights what’s wrong with the increasingly dysfunctional political, economic and social system we have to endure. People have a pretty clear idea of what the Stirrer doesn’t like but wonder what alternative can be offered instead. This is why we set up The Estuary Alternative in a bid to start looking at different ways of organising our lives.

Radical change isn’t going to come about without an upheaval that will sweep away the existing order and replace it with a society that’s more just, equitable, sane and sustainable. What can be done in the meantime is trying out different ways of organising our lives. It’s a process of starting to build a new world in the decaying shell of the dystopian one we’re in at the moment. That process necessarily involves a fair bit of experimentation to see what does and doesn’t work.

The emphasis is on bringing decision making about how we organise our communities and lives down to the grassroots. Obviously there are power structures in the way that put obstacles in the way we’d like to deal with issues such as housing. However, when you start to look, there are plenty of opportunities for projects that can start to make a difference in the here and now.

Here are just a couple of ideas as to what can be done…

Neighbourhood community gardens that give people more control over how their food is sourced. As well as empowerment from having more control, there are other benefits such as collectively working with your neighbours, access to fresh fruit and vegetables plus the exercise put in to cultivate them and a reduction in energy inputs involved in transporting food. Given the disruption to the food supply chain that’s likely to happen with a chaotic Brexit, this will boost neighbourhood resilience and cohesion in what could well be difficult times ahead.

Repair cafes where anything from tools to broken radios can be fixed and have their lifetimes extended. One benefit are the skills learned in repairing items as opposed to simply dumping them – skills that increase self reliance and boost confidence and self esteem. There are also the environmental benefits that come from reduced consumption of raw materials and a reduction in waste. On a more subversive note, doing this slowly undermines the unsustainable, consumer driven, production for profit rather than need model we currently have to live with.

There’s a lot more that can and should be done. The important thing is being prepared to have a go at launching a grassroots initiative that can play a part in building a new world in the shell of the old – this is what we’re looking at in this edition of our paper. Feel free to let us know what you think and send in your ideas for bringing about change at the grassroots.

Here’s one way of creating and maintaining a pocket community garden…

In reference to our previous post about the newly created space on the ¾ estate in Vange after a ‘temporary’ fence and a load of fly-tipping was cleared, here’s an idea all the way from South Norwood on what could be done with it: The Sensible Gardenhttps://www.facebook.com/The-Sensible-Garden-786327811482410/ Namely, create a community run pocket garden. If you take a look at this Facebook page, we’re sure you will be inspired to come up with some ideas on what can be done with support from people in the neighbourhood.

There are a fair few gains that can be had from creating and maintaining a pocket garden on an estate. There’s the boost to community morale from seeing a space that’s cared for by locals as opposed to yet another ready made site for flytipping. There’s the sense of camaraderie generated by a group of people working together with a common purpose. There’s the opportunity for people to express their creativity as you can see from looking through the Facebook page for The Sensible Garden. Also, there are the benefits of just being out in the fresh air and getting some exercise.

The space on the ¾ estate is small and as such is unlikely to attract external funding unlike larger spaces such as the Mendip Wildlife Garden in Southend – https://www.facebook.com/MendipWildlifeGarden/ Also, it has to be borne in mind that some elements at Basildon Council can sometimes be less than helpful when dealing with community groups! So it’s down to the community to come up with ideas for what can be done and the implement it. As stated previously, Vange Hill Community Group and Basildon & Southend Housing Action will be more than happy to facilitate any ideas for a garden on this space.

Could there be a pocket community garden here?

After last week’s community clean up (see the previous post) on the ¾ estate in Vange on the southern fringes of Basildon, our sister blog, The South Essex Stirrer published a number of posts based on what they saw and experienced. One of them was this: Action?https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/action/ about a fence and an accumulation of rubbish that had become an eyesore and a hazard. We don’t know what buttons this pushed at Basildon Council but action was taken to clear the fence and the trash to leave the patch of open ground shown above.

What we now have is a space with potential. As mentioned in our previous post, Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG), facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) have been focusing on the Oldwyk and Gambleside areas of the estate to establish a degree of community led maintenance and care that will hopefully act as an inspiration to the rest of the estate. Where this cleared patch of ground is in Swanstead is halfway between Oldwyk and Gambleside and would be a perfect location to establish a pocket community garden that would serve as the nucleus of another ‘maintained’ zone.

If any residents in and around Swanstead or from further afield on the ¾ estate want to step up to the plate to help create a community garden that would help people take a pride in their neighbourhood, VHCG and BASHA would be delighted to help them achieve this. Also, if anyone from the wider region we cover who has experience of creating and maintaining community run pocket gardens wants to get on board to offer their expertise and advice, they will be warmly welcomed.