Tuesday 10 July 2012

Council contractors decimate wild flower garden

Yesterday I published the following post:

The Deptford guerrilla garden is now in full bloom - walk down to the roundabout at the bottom of Edward Street (next to the MOT place) and you will see poppies and daisies galore.

There's a scattering of nasturtiums, some sunflowers that are striving up towards the rather elusive sunshine, some little unidentified purple flowers and various other things that I don't know what they are, along with loads of tiny pansies and a scattering of weeds.

A welcome splash of colour in this bed where the roses (at the other end) are usually the only decoration, if you don't count tin cans and empty chicken boxes.

When I went past the other day, in a sunny moment, the flowers were awash with bees, making the most of a dry period to gather a bit of nectar. Great to see a new habitat for our poor honey bees.

Do take a look if you are passing, and enjoy the display while it lasts.

Little did I realise how short a time we would actually have in which to enjoy this: coming home from work on Tuesday I found this scene of devastation.

It seems the council's over-zealous grounds maintenance contractors - presumably Glendales, who don't have the best reputation locally - have been along and 'tidied up' the flower bed by removing almost everything of beauty.

They have not just removed the weeds, which admittedly could have done with a bit of attention, but also the poppies and daisies, which were in full flower, the one or two cornflowers, the nasturtiums around the edges which were just coming into bud, the small hollyhocks which had not yet taken hold properly, and a myriad of other plants that added colour and diversity to the flower bed.

Thankfully they left the sunflowers - although not all of them, there were many others dotted around the flower bed. The many bees and other insects that were buzzing round the flowers when I visited at the weekend were long gone. Another habitat, however small, destroyed.  

I got in touch with the local resident I know who gardens here, she was understandably upset. "I can't believe what they've done - how is this any improvement on the situation?" she said. "And what are they going to put in it instead? I've been living here more than five years and in that time the council has never spent any money on flowers or even seeds for this bed. It has always been empty, which is criminal really when so many people are waiting for allotments and don't have gardens.

"Me and my friends spent quite a lot of time trying to make it more attractive by digging up the weeds, sowing seeds and planting flowers here. After all this hard work it was looking so lovely, and now it's just a vast expanse of empty soil, which will be full of weeds and rubbish again within a few weeks. I really don't know what they think they have achieved.

"Proper gardeners would have had the knowledge and patience to weed selectively and would certainly not have pulled up any flowers, even poppies which can be invasive. They would have come back once the flowers were gone, removing most of the seed heads to keep next year's poppy growth manageable.

"What they've done here is just vandalism."


Richard Slade said...

The council need to be contacted and it should be explained to them in words containing no more than one syllable why these designated areas should be left alone.

Caterina said...

How awful. I shall have a look in my seed stash, I think I might have a packet or two of wild flower seeds, if so you are welcome to have them, and also some of the evening primrose plants that are growing wild in my front garden. Caterina x

Anonymous said...

I live in Idonia Street. Up until a few years ago I used to clean the front area outside as far as the pavement. I spent good money on getting some manure and compost and flowers etc into the flowerbeds outside. Other people in the block helped supply good suitable drought tolerant plants. Sadly the local kids used it (a lot) as a rubbish bin.
I mentioned this to the local council grounds woman, with a request to keep removing the litter.
Her responce was to clear the entire both beds down to the bare earth.
It stopped me doing any more ever again, and I now always denigrate LBL and all their 'works'. BASTARDS!

Clare Griffiths said...

That is shocking.

Lewisham Gardens said...

My jaw dropped on reading this and seeing the pictures. Utter moronic vandalism.

You can email Glendale, but unless the person who reads the email is actually the person who does the weeding, you're probably wasting your time.

Could you try painting a sign? A bright sign claiming the bed and label it as belonging to the community.

I can supply some poppy seeds and butterfly garden seed.

The local Friends of the Earth chapter are supplying seeds to encourage butterflies too.

Anonymous said...

Outrageous! I thought this little patch looked great when I walked past the other day too.

I just emailed the Mayor, the council and Glendale to complain, copying in Joan Ruddock (although she hardly ever bothers replying).

Email below.

Dear Mayor, Lewisham Council and Glendale,

I wish to complain about Glendale destroying the community garden/welcome piece of guerilla gardening on Edward Street, SE14.

Why would anyone wish to rip up flowers and plants that were so lovingly planted, to return a massive empty flower bed to just bare earth?

'Before' and 'after' pictures attached.

You can see more pictures here http://deptforddame.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/guerrilla-garden-comes-into-bloom.html

I would like a reply please.

Best wishes,

Local resident, Edward Street

Anonymous said...

Bloody vandals. Tree cutters on Crossfields just removed two mature elderberry trees (food for the birds) and left the buddleah.

Andytgeezer said...

GAH! That is awful. Idiots!

Mike Harris said...

This is madness. I've asked a Council question on this.

(Councillor Mike Harris)

Lewisham Pagan said...

Removed elder?? They'll get their cumuppence...

Elena said...

What utter ignorance and selfishness! You should take a look at Margaret McMillan Park and see how people trash it by dumping rubbish, breaking tree branches, ripping bark off of the trees. Such pigs!

Anonymous said...

Would be great if someone could supply email addresses of councillors and Lewisham mayor...

Anonymous said...

Its hardly worth getting wound up. Its interesting how people seem so angry against the Council. Blame the council for everything!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - the council are to blame. Some mystery person didn't just decide to dig up this flower bed. So that's why the council are being blamed. Who do YOU think should be blamed?

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

To the person who wanted to contact the council, seeing as they're responsible for this:


is the Mayor.

And Joan Ruddock is our MP:


12 July 2012 16:48

Anonymous said...

People seem so bitter and angry here.

Anonymous said...

if you want bitter and angry you need brockley central . . .


Anonymous said...

I had a reply from the council. Their reply and mine below.

BTW it's not a case of being bitter, just angry. And why not?

On 17 July 2012 15:11, Ringwood, James wrote:
> Dear XXX
> Thank you for your email of 11 July regarding the removal of flowers. I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Mayor and Executive Director of Customer Services.
> I am sorry that these flowers were removed. I am advised that our contractors were not aware that local residents were planting up this flower bed and consequently cleared the bed of the plants in preparation for restocking.
> The Council is always keen to work with resident groups who want to improve their local area with floral displays or to set up a community garden. If you would like any further information on this, please contact Katy Delaney from our Green Scene Service Group on 020 8314 2277 or email katy.delaney@lewisham.gov.uk
> Yours sincerely
> James Ringwood
> Senior Caseworker - Customer Services
> LB Lewisham

Dear Mr Ringwood,

Many thanks for your reply which is much appreciated.

However I'm incredulous how your contractors could not be aware that local residents were planting in this flower bed as it was full of non-wild flowers either in bloom or coming into bloom. This would suggest that your contractors can't distinguish weeds from flowers and I would suggest they are trained on this at the earliest possible convenience.

I would also be grateful if you could tell me, under a Freedom of Information request, what these beds are going to be restocked with, when, and what the cost of this will be, as well as issuing me with any other documents relating to this restocking (such as when this was authorised for example). To the best of my knowledge this bed has never been restocked so it would be interesting to hear of the plans you have for it.

Best wishes,

Deptford dame said...

@anon thanks for publishing that correspondence, I look forward to hearing any response you may get. The bed has very clearly not been prepared for restocking - the roots of many of the plants are still intact (in fact I noticed a couple now have leaves on again - the power of nature!) and the soil has not been dug. As you point out, it has not been 'restocked' in living memory unless anyone else can offer evidence to the contrary.
I notice that some new plants and cuttings have appeared around the edges so it seems the guerrillas have not been deterred.

Anonymous said...

oh what a shame :( perhaps the council can assist with supplying some new plants to help make amends,in regards to LBL gardeners the memorial gardens on Lewisham way and opposite Lewisham hospital are always fantastic, so perhaps some partnership between the gardeners and residents could brighten the plot again :)

Staircase2 said...

Re contacting local representatives a great resource is http://www.writetothem.com/ where you can Inuit your postcode and have the site tell you how to contact local councillors, MPs & MEPs etc.

Re the email response from Lewisham this is almost identical to be I had several years ago after complaining to Lewisham after their 'gardeners' (I use the term very loosely) completely devastated the garden in front of my then flat.

I had spent several years tending it and woke up one. Orning to find the outside my bedroom window hacking everything down to the ground. In the process they destroyed one bush and completely ruined several years of work in getting the garden to look as it was.

I too was promised that if I contacted some at the council (not Kate Delaney who I think I spoke with re Allotments recently) they would ensure that this wouldn't happen again as they 'had no idea some one was looking after the garden.'

I was never able to contact the person in question who always seemed to be on holiday or unavailable ...('gardening leave' perhaps...?)

I awoke to find exactly the same kind of devastation happening again the following year!

Theyre bloody incompetent when it comes to gardening!

Re the Lewisham Park Memorial opposite Lewisham Hospital I have a feeling that L&Q might be putting money into keeping that looking so good - even though I think it's Glendale doing the work.

Even here though I find it odd that they leave so many sycamores untouched when it would be easy to pluck them out while they're I still young...

Knight of Clubs said...

What a shame. The same happens often in Italy.
Last year, council contractors destroyed a guerrilla garden planted with mulleins.
In my country, they aren't gardeners but jobless people that have found an occupation.
I think it more simple, to them, mow everything: simple and fast.

In my little town, I'v tried a kind of fence made with sticks and string (very cheap) that is working good.
In this page of my blog, you can see some pics.


As you can see, in the third picture, council contractors weeded all the traffic island, leaving safe the little fences that protect sunflowers and the oleander.
I also put a sign, to show that my guerrilla gardens are tended every day.

Mike Harris said...

My Council question is now on the agenda for tomorrow night's full council meeting.

Does anyone have a follow-up question I can ask?

Question by Councillor Harris
of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services


Why did Glendale remove the flowers (poppies and daisies) planted by local residents at the roundabout at the bottom of Edward Street, leaving the patch as bare soil? Does this not send the wrong message to local people?



It is regrettable that Glendale staff removed nearly all the flowers planted by local Guerrilla Gardener’s when clearing the planter of weeds. Neither Glendale staff or Green Scene Officers were aware that local residents had carried out the planting, otherwise this would not have happened.

Since this unfortunate incident took place officers have attempted to make contact with the Guerrilla Gardener’s to seek their views on the planned new planting scheme and possibly work together in the future.

In the meantime the restocking of the bed has been put on hold and Glendale staff reminded of the importance of reporting the presence of Guerrilla Gardening before carrying out maintenance work.

Deptford Dame said...

What efforts have they made to contact the resident involved? I would have thought the most obvious step would be to contact me since I pointed out in the post that I know the person concerned. But I have had no contact from them either via my email, which is included on the blog, by Twitter or by comments on the blog.

I have asked the resident and she confirmed she has not been contacted directly.