The Secret Garden is planted with a mix of fruit and flowers. The boundaries are made up of espaliered apple trees, passion flowers, thornless blackberries, willow and roses.
The ‘door arbour’ has grape vines from which hang bunches of sweet black grapes in early autumn.
Hops also twine their way up the edges of the door arbour having escaped from the pergola they were meant to cover until, one day, a fig tree will provide a shady spot to sit.
This year, for the first time since it was planted, the fig tree has produced a bountiful crop of figs.
One of our followers on Instagram suggested make fig jam. Perhaps to sell to Members and friends through the site shop.
How to eat figs
As well as just eating them fresh from the tree, a simple way to enjoy figs is just to cut them into wedges and add to salads. The classic starter is to wrap them in parma ham . They’re are also delicious raw on a cheese board instead of grapes. They can be grilled or roasted which makes them even sweeter. Here are a few ideas ideas for delicious deserts that can be made with figs:
Award-winning allotment site creates green space for local community with Bags of Help grant
Dorset Road Allotments and Leisure Gardens Society is an award-winning allotment site in Beckenham, south east London. One of the few allotment sites to regularly win a Green Flag award, it has a real community focus – from regular open days to fundraising events for local charities. When the group wanted to improve their ‘Secret Garden’, a much-loved communal space open to all in the community, they applied to Tesco Bags of Help and were delighted to receive a £10,000 grant.
The Secret Garden was originally build 15 years ago by an allotment member, using recycled materials. It was a space for people to relax and enjoy being outdoors – it was so successful that it won an award from Bromley Council. But despite regular maintenance the garden was falling into disrepair, with paths, fences and buildings deteriorating and making the garden difficult to access. As well as restoring the garden, the group wanted to make the garden more welcoming for those with special access requirements, and to extend its educational facilities.
With the Bags of Help grant, the group were able to move the garden to a new site, closer to the entrance of the allotments. This meant it was more visible to passers-by, increasing the number of people who would use it. With the move came the opportunity for a whole new design, which many of the allotment-holders were involved in. Designs and mood-boards decked the wall of the clubhouse so that everyone could comment on the ideas and track the progress of the design.
Building the garden was a real group effort, with volunteers helping along the way and people kindly donating items for the garden. Some even went skip-diving to help find reusable materials, such as old doors and windows which were painted and used to create some of the structures that give the garden its secluded feel. The group learned new skills such as how to create willow tunnels to give the garden a beautiful entrance. A local Scout group created two insect hotels to increase the habitat for wildlife. For more complicated structures, the Bags of Help grant allowed the group to bring in contractors – ensuring that everything in the garden was sturdy and would last for many years in the future.
The construction of the garden is now complete, with vines, creepers and other plants waiting to spring into life in the warmer months to make the space seem even more magical. On entering the garden, you’re led down a willow tunnel before reaching a covered seating area and the main open space, with benches and space for picnics and activities – all surrounded by abundant plants and wildlife. The garden is now accessible to more members of the community, and is used by visitors young and old, as well as two primary schools. People in the area from all walks of life have a wonderful new space to enjoy nature, learn about plants and wildlife, and relax.
Donna Sallows, Secretary of Dorset Road Allotments and Leisure Gardens Society, said:
“It was good to see many people involved in this project from start to finish. This new space is already proving very popular and is a great asset to not only those members who will use and enjoy it but also the wider community through visits and open days. Through time this space will evolve and become a truly secret garden”
The Tesco Bags of Help scheme takes the money paid for plastic bags in stores and puts it into grants that benefit local communities. Millions of pounds have been given to a wide range of projects.
The theme for the garden was ‘secret’ and ‘woodland’ and the aim was to create the garden using as much recycled material as possible.
Creating the garden
The main structural elements were put in place by contractors in March to ensure the garden is safe and accessible. Since then volunteers have been bringing the garden to life. They have planted a willow tunnel and a fedge, recycled donated plants and built features such as the hazel pole fences, hanging picture frames and windows to peek through.
We would like to thank everybody who has helped to create the garden so far, but especially our members Jane and Damien for all the hard work. We would also like to thank the 19th Bromley Scouts who built the two bug hotels
We hope to have a formal launch party for the garden in the summer when the plants have grown. Before then there’s still a lot more work to be done ranging from weeding to woodworking.
If you would like to be part of the team creating and maintaining this wonderful new community garden please speak to a committee member.