UK’s first ever postcode gardener gets to work in Homerton

Kate Poland is now the UK’s first postcode gardener. Photograph: Gerry Tissier

The UK’s first postcode gardener sprung into action in Homerton this week – and she already has a few ideas up her sleeve.

Kate Poland, an award-winning community gardener and allotment owner, was picked by Friends of the Earth (FotE) to lead its budding 10xGreener project, which aims to transform towns and cities by helping people plant with nature and wildlife in mind.

A successful crowdfunding campaign earlier this year saw more than 100 people raise the £8,000 needed to pay for Poland’s first twelve months in the role.

She will work with residents for one day a week to give front gardens across the E5 postcode an environmental makeover.

Poland is already a well-known figure in Hackney’s burgeoning community gardening scene.

She runs social enterprise Cordwainer’s Grow, which delivers nature projects all over the borough, and recently launched a manifesto designed to protect local community gardens from development.

Poland said: “10xGreener is an exciting way to make our streets and estates far better for nature and people. You don’t need to be a dedicated gardener to get involved.

“Residents can come together and work with experts to make real differences to the community.

“There are some simple and practical ways to make a front garden look great and provide a real boost for nature. Do this across a community and suddenly our towns and cities start to look and feel different.

“Even a little gardening can provide big physical and mental benefits – so it’s a win for everyone.”

Poland says she already has some ideas in mind to bring grey spaces to life – seed banks, a signature wildlife plant and even weed champions.

Community: the Daubeney Road project is supported by residents, schools and the council. Photograph: 10xGreener

FotE launched the 10xGreener project on Homerton’s Daubeney Road earlier this year to learn what it would take to roll out the project across the country.

Residents came together in bursts of weekend activity to make planters and create a more natural, green environment.

Hugh Knowles, FotE’s director of disruptive innovation, said: “We know that greener streets are better for people, nature and the environment. They boost our physical and mental health and help wildlife to flourish in urban areas.

“With over half of wild species in the UK having declined in the last sixty years we urgently need a different kind of urban environment – one with flourishing nature that brings benefits to us all.”

Research by Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL) shows 41 per cent of garden space in the capital is paved over.

GiGL also has records of over 4,000 species living in Hackney.

Knowles added: “Nature can, and should, be all around us – not just in parks and the countryside.

“We are really excited to see the first ever postcode gardener starting work in E5 as Kate brings neighbours together to create fantastic spaces for plants and wildlife.

“We want to learn how to roll this out to other communities in 2019.”

The BBC’s Natural History Unit filmed the Daubeney Road project for a documentary. Photograph: 10xGreener

Poland will work with local groups ecoActive and Daubeney Fields Forever, the crowdfunders and other community partners to take 10xGreener forwards.

On 1 December she will hand out 100 garden saplings as part of a tree-planting weekend organised by the Mayor of London.

10xGreener is coordinated by Friends of the Earth and guerrilla geographer and London National Park City founder Daniel Raven Ellison.

Friends of the Earth is exploring how to make the postcode gardener model sustainable in the long term, to ensure that it can continue to benefit the community after the end of the first year.

Other neighbourhoods are already working on their own 10xGreener schemes.

Residents and campaigners in Bideford, north Devon, are hoping to recruit their own postcode gardener very soon after successfully raising over £5,000.

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