Jackie Sear from Hanwell Big Local told us the story of a remarkable journey: transforming a piece of neglected woodland known as ‘Dead Man’s Alley’ into a ‘visible, vibrant, and safe’ space.
Grass roots planning
Hanwell Big Local saw huge potential in a piece of neglected woodland in their area known as ‘Dead Man’s Alley’. With the help of E.A.S.E.(Empowering, Action, Self Esteem and Action), Hanwell Big Local’s locally trusted organisation, Hanwell Big Local presented a proposal for regenerating the land to Ealing Council.
Hanwell Big Local had developed strong working partnerships with Cultivate London, Piece of Green, Space Hive and the Youth Justice service, which helped to convince the Council to start the process of registering the land as a conservation area and a community asset.
I would say that Jackie and others veritably charmed their way into the hearts and minds of council officers!
Residents highlighted the health and safety issues in the woodland by taking it upon themselves to clear the rubbish (40 bags of it) which triggered Ealing to spend £40,000 on land clearance and Hanwell Big Local persuaded them to pay £28,000 for path landscaping executed by Piece of Green. In exchange, Big Local agreed to fund a 2 year £50,000 plan to train two apprentices as horticulturalists, plus £5000 worth of planting for the woodland, which has been provisionally re-named ‘Copley Wood’.
After the apprentices qualify in the third year, they will be supported to start a social enterprise that will lead on the maintenance of the woodland area as well as the green spaces across four estates: Copley Close, Gurnell Grove, and High Lane and Cuckoo estates, all within HBL area.
What a fantastic start up contract!
The council have not handed the woodland over to residents yet. The residents are working with an amended allotments licence that will allow them to develop the woodland site with the view to a more permanent arrangement by the end of the funding.
In that time, as long as Hanwell Big Local facilitate the development of a ‘Friends of Copley Close’ committee and can prove the land is being utilised successfully for the health and wellbeing of residents – including a schools education programme – they will ultimately be granted a Freeholder Lease.
The perfect illustration of this was Jackie’s description of a resident regularly sitting on a log eating his lunch in the fresh air!
How the project will grow
Cultivate London will train the two apprentices with the Big Local funds. Additional funds of £74,000 will come from Ealing, Space Hive (a crowdfunding project) and the local Ward Forum and generous individual sponsors, plus local residents.
The Youth Justice Service will supply community service hours to help with maintenance and the start-up of an allotment scheme growing fresh food and veg. Schools and residents will learn more about planting, conservation and nutrition, directly benefiting from the produce they have helped grow.
Residents are arranging monthly gardening and woodland clear up days. Copley Close is a regeneration area and the contractors are being approached to provide bins and sponsor additional works.
Real blossoms ‘n’ branches
Hanwell Big Local have also commissioned Cultivate London to manage the apprentices to develop an orchard trail and growing projects across the Hanwell Big Local area, including a Memorial Garden project at Hanwell Community Centre.
A provisionally named ‘Green Hanwell Community Association’ group will support the growing projects which will literally ‘sprout’ up across the four estates. They will distribute produce that is grown and liaise with a spin-off woodland education project, which will expand to include special schools, and sixth formers taking gardening qualifications.
Most important of all everyone’s mental health, wellbeing and knowledge of plants and produce will be increased, and supported through regular community meals…mmm methinks I’ll plan to visit at just the right time!
After Jackie announced they have plans to expand further into another plot of land, l found myself standing to applaud. Possible funding for future projects will come from from Veolia Trust or Sita Trust. Magnifico! Can anyone follow that?