Volunteers revive community garden at Canonbury Overground station

Kyle Baldock (left), Carla Hayden (middle) and Carol Taffinder (right) with a bed of lavender at Can

Kyle Baldock (left), Carla Hayden (middle) and Carol Taffinder (right) with a bed of lavender at Canonbury Overground Station. - Credit: Danny Halpin

Volunteers at Canonbury station are reviving a community-owned garden as part of a project to grow food and increase biodiversity across the London Overground network.

Carol Taffinder, an NHS worker and veteren gardener, has been watering the lavender, oregano and rosemary on her way to work.

“The ambition is to grow a lot more food,” she said. “We’re planning on runner beans and tomatoes.”

Energy Garden, a non-profit organisation, has gardens in 34 Overground stations and secures permission from TfL, Network Rail and other operators to allow communities to manage and grow their own spaces.

First-time volunteer Carla Hayden was furloughed by her employer WeWork during lockdown and joined Energy Garden to do something worthwhile.

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“Part of my job is trying to create a community and this is similar,” she said. “It’s needed, especially in the city.”

Energy Garden began as a pet project for Agamemnon Otero, who won an Ashden Award for building community-owned solar power stations in 2016.

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“The average person, if they go to work each day on the Overground, spends 30 minutes a day, three weeks a year standing at that station,” he said.

“So if you can capture that and make that space a destination where they can get involved, spend five or ten minutes weeding or gardening... it’s not just beneficial to them, it will change the environment and change the way we think.”

There were around 300 active volunteers before the lockdown and while it is thought that many, especially older, volunteers dropped out through fear of the virus, other younger volunteers like Carla are joining as a way to reconnect after weeks of isolation.

“We’re basically having to start from scratch,” said Kyle Baldock, an employee of Energy Garden who has been reaching out to other community organisers, including climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, to rebuild the volunteer network.

“If you’re excited by this, we’ll support you,” he said. “You can also meet your neighbours and make the stations more beautiful.”

The London Overground’s general manager, Rory O’Neill, said: “We look forward to start welcoming these budding gardeners back when possible.”

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