Background

Mobile Gardeners plant in a fast moving world of change. The time for putting down roots has passed, we grow and come and go. A plant can be for life not just for where you happen to live. A mobile gardener adapts and the form of their mobile garden evolves in pace with our age.

About Mobile Gardeners
Mobile Gardeners was created in November 2011 by three local residents Paul McGann, Chris Mead and Richard Reynolds. Founded as a not-for-profit enterprise it was created to take up the invitation by Southwark Council and their developer partner Lend Lease for local residents to operate a community garden in a portion of their large redevelopment zone. The passion for turning neglected spaces into vibrant gardens is in evidence across the Elephant and Castle despite the area’s reputation for concrete and cars. Leafy council estates, pocket parks and allotments exist secluded throughout the area. Since 2004 Richard has championed guerrilla gardening from here, tending roundabouts, verges and abandoned flower beds, popularising the movement around the world through his activity. In spring 2011 guerrilla gardening began within the derelict back gardens and grassy public realm of the Heygate Estate led by some remaining residents and a network of local residents and artists. Despite some initial fierce discouragement from Southwark Council the achievements there visibly demonstrated the enthusiasm for space to garden and the activity has been tolerated. Meanwhile the case for a wider range of interim uses in the redevelopment area was being developed. Landscape architects Paul McGann, Annie Lennox and Ye-Wei conceived a masterplan for activities on the Heygate as an entry for RIBA’s Forgotten Spaces, “Hey! This is Heaven” and Elephant Amenity Network hosted a Visioning Event in June 2011 to workshop interim uses as well as many other issues. As a result of this in June 2011 the Elephant and Castle Urban Forest was created by Richard Reynolds and Guy Mannes-Abbott to popularise the case for retaining the undervalued trees within the redevelopment and for ensuring public access could be maintained during and after reconstruction. The strategy was to create and host more activities on the estate and promote what we discovered was going on there, bringing people into the forest to feel for themselves the value of the place. As a result of the success of these activities Southwark Council and Lend Lease entered discussions with Elephant and Castle Urban Forest about providing a lease for community gardening on the southern fringe of the forest. They declined but Mobile Gardeners Community Interest Company emerged as an off-shoot of this to take up the opportunity. Since 2011 Mobile Gardeners developed four different interim ‘parks’ on Lend Lease land, moving on as the time table of development required our space for construction. The fourth of these is Grow Elephant. At the same time Mobile Gardeners was sought out by local groups, tenants associations, schools and even a club space, to help enrich their landscape. We provide design advice and hands-on workshops. In April 2016 the thriving Grow Elephant and Mobile Gardeners split to enable a change in focus with Paul McGann leading Grow Elephant (part of the Community Interest Company) and Richard Reynolds continuing Mobile Gardeners as the ‘legitimate’ arm of his guerrilla gardening projects. Grow Elephant’s priority is maximising the opportunity for the community of interim spaces available before or during development while Mobile Gardeners seeks to work on spaces with long term potential in the Elephant and Castle, typically housing estate land and public spaces not earmarked for substantial change.

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