Meeting Bob from Woodcroft Wildspace, has been a total inspiration and a joy – his community project is a testament to the tenacious spirit of humans. Bob and the other volunteers at Wooodcroft have created a haven an oasis of beauty and life in an urban area and we invited him to tell us a little about the project here
When the Seed SistA invited us to write a few words about the history and some of the achievements of our community garden, Woodcroft Wildspace I of course readily agreed, but then sat back and wondered where to start. How many authors have done that ?
Usually, the best way to start a story is at the beginning, unless you are writing Star Wars and other prequels, in at least nine parts !
Woodcroft Wildspace started its public life in 2003 with the launch of an idea to let the community have a go at converting an underused 5 acre sports ground in N21 into “An Educational Wildspace for the benefit of the whole of Enfield.” The site was just mown grass and had been like that for something like 40 years, with excitements for the neighbours like all night raves, grass tracking, ad hoc fireworks displays and general malaise. Thankfully Councillors of the day and the community thought it worth a try, formed a Design Group and then a Friends Group whose target was to take the nacent but ambitious design from talk to reality. Fantastic – let’s do it!
The large Committee met fortnightly, organised plenty of well attended fund raising events, publicity went into overdrive and the site plans started to be implemented by all age groups pitching in with donated tools. Web site created, emails written, newspapers mobilised, leaflets designed and distributed, no Facebook in those days……. Small grants applied for, and won, enabled step and repeat of the paper based publicity. Great responses and the project was off to a good start. Project start up is always the exciting time before reality kicks in and the steady plod through the day to day necessities takes over.
So what have we been doing all this time? We have evolved the monoculture of mown grass into a host of different habitats. 9 ponds, orchard, meadow, scrubland, woodland, boggy area, Organic Sensory Garden, apiary, wild area, Open Air Classroom, Eco-Gym, and our latest addition, Silver Award winning Contemplation Corner.
Contemplation Corner – Silver Award
A “keyhole” with a memorial bench surrounded by wild flowers and, in due course, a willow arbor. In winter the warmth of the low sun shines on the bench and in summer the canopy provides shade.
You enter the site via our Silver awarded entrance which one of our young visitors understood beautifully. “Its says welcome Dad !” And so it does, having been planted in a way that gives a flavour of the habitats inside.
The mown grass turned out to hold a rich 18 species of grasses in which we have a host of spiders ants, huge numbers of grasshoppers and attracts a multitude of butterflies and moths, over a dozen species in varying numbers from year to year. One year it produced a veritable cloud of Orange Tips which was a wonderful experience. The prize exhibit was a very large Poplar Hawk Moth.
The Orchard has over 80 trees comprising some 30 rare English varieties of cookers and eaters, which ripen at various times between September and January. To illustrate the different flavours and textures we host an Apple Tasting Day in September; like a wine tasting but with the different apple varieties, cheeses, meats and some freshly cooked by a local volunteer.
Our Big Lottery funded Learning Centre building and apiary modestly provides a focal point for all visits, schools, youth groups, adult industry team building days. The Education Team has successfully welcomed a host of school visits throughout the year. We are a go to destination for school trips, with some 1250 Primary students visiting in 2019, increasing year on year such that we are already near capacity until the end of the summer term 2020 and starting bookings for 2021. Students study our wide range of plants and trees, invertebrates and their habitats and pond life, with teachers reporting that the post visit written work is extensive and imaginative, showing the keen engagement that volunteers enthuse in leading the groups. Our ponds are the highlight of all the schools trips producing a wide range of dragon and damsel fly nymphs along with Water Scorpion, Water Boatmen and of course newts and frogs, all the way down to minute red mites and the microscopic diatoms. Excited school children have often loudly voiced their visit to Woodcroft, to learn about plants and other wildlife, as “the best school trip ever !”
The Silver Award winning Organic Sensory Garden, to which we are planning to extend to include a herb garden, with The Seed SistAs and their local apprentices expert guidance. Our aim is to educate the community in not only where herbs come from, other than a supermarket packet, but how to use them to best effect in a culinary manner and where to find expert guidance medicinally. We already advocate plants as medicines in a simplistic manner with docks leaves treating nettle stings and are seeking to extend that awareness in students and adults alike, demonstrating the mutual importance of protecting insects such as bees and plants on which they feed in a rapidly changing climate.
Organic Sensory Garden – Silver Award
And our ponds hold a plethora of pond life, common newts and frogs being the prize finds, closely followed by the stars of the show, the dragonflies.
The flashing colours of the slender Damselflies, stunning blue male and yellow female Broad Bodied Chasers, together with the positively huge Emperor dragonflies catching and eating prey on the wing.
Volunteers crowned another year of achievements by winning the Enfield in Bloom Gold Award for the Best Environmental Wildlife Garden / Meadow, for the whole Wildspace, for the 6th year running. A host of our visitors agree and compliment us on just how “bowled over” they are by their visits to Woodcroft Wildspace.
Enfield in Bloom Awards 2019
Coming up in 2020, we have a series of events early spring, perhaps a summer music festival, summer picnic, the Apple Tasting of course – and our weekly volunteer days on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday mornings.