Cultivate Waltham Forest. To eat healthy you must work donkey.

In 2006 I took an allotment in Chingford. What a dump it was. Considering the land was/is owned by LB Waltham Forest, surely they had a duty as landlord to keep it in good nick. It was a massive uncultivated plot full of elephant-high brambles, and rubbish such as wheels and iron bits obviously thrown in by other allotment holders as they tilled their neat patches. Next to it was/is a bee hive inside the thickest blackberry bushes you’ve ever seen with ripe blackberries no-one would dare gather. That enterprise was managed by the allotment manager’s brother

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Despite the shortage of allotments in the borough and believe me, I had to do the running around myself to find one and that was miles away, most allotment owners actually owned more than two plots each on the same grounds! Allotments were gold dust.

Recently I overheard hipsters say how they rent half an allotment. Make no mistake though you need muscle for even a quarter of a plot …all year round. You get a manager breathing down your neck waiting for you to default, report you to WF Green Spaces, then evict you so he can give the plot to his family allegedly.
So in 2006 I lost three stone in weight carrying water, heaving away junk, and sweating under the unshaded relentless World Cup year sun. All trees were ground-hoggers and cut down. I know! In hallowed Waltham Forest! There was one tree on my plot which served as shelter in the torrential rain and shelter for the horse-radish. I’d hide my tools under a corner of weeds which would not budge. They were always moved but at least not stolen. If my bladder were full, tough. The only toilet was locked and up to today I await the requested key. Obviously only menarchial women harvest under the moon. I was nagged and nagged to get rid of that tree.

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I’m glad I had the experience. I made sure my sister got that plot. Others made sure their families were allotment-holders so what suits the Chingford Whites suits me. She was targeted and threatened with the closure of her tenancy because while she was on maternity leave she “neglected” her site. She never knew how the powers were over-charging her for years but knows they never apologized. They picked on the wrong woman for a squabble. She used her mouth and answered back holding on to her hollyhocks! Sure the management stinks allegedly but the ground workers collude as they join ranks and keep something to themselves for themselves. Selfish land-grabbers.
Meanwhile seven years on I lament the loss of dried mud on supermarket potatoes never mind cry at the price charged for washed anaemic spuds. I used to farm and tried to munch my way through over stocks of veg. The indoor drawers would be full of tomatoes in newspaper; every neighbour’s house like mine would stink of sulphuric boiled cabbage. Onions hanging on rafters would bang your head whenever you entered sheds. I built greenhouses from scratch with another person helping. We recycled abandoned wood frame windows from renovated old croft houses. All this before the revolution. To eat healthy you must work donkey.
I am looking forward to the Cultivate Waltham Forest conference at the end of March this year. It’s the first of its kind and is a natural result from the initiatives inspired by the dynamic new population arriving in Walthamstow. Beetroot is the new black y’all!Coldfall Wood. Cold January 2014

You can see it all now: potato prints, mushroom collages, smoothie pop-ups.. again, odes to onions. All good but hoping Leyton people get a look in. In Leyton it seems that any space, back garden or otherwise, is taken up by concrete for the car, low-maintenance blown-leaf clearance, or a bed for a mattress. And farming the land doesn’t necessarily carry social prestige in any community. Minds have to be fertilised to view what’s on our doorsteps if we want change in our health and community living. The Cultivate conference will aim to do that surely besides it being a ra ra forum for self-congratulation over green projects.

Chestnut cutlets and coldiflower.

We have to remember that the Hornbeam Café in E17 is a community space and not a restaurant like say, La Delice, a mile or so along the road towards The Bell (refurbished). Last night it became a restaurant serving a seaonal supper. The enterprise was managed by Organiclea and The Hornbeam Café who were out to promote organic products from Hawkwood Allotments up in Chingford and the bread made by community-minded local bakers. I do believe they were preaching to the choir.

The Hornbeam Café is well known in the Bakers Arms area as the hippy recycling centre, a place out of sync with the curry and chicken shops, Iceland and Tesco. It’s dead easy to find even for Dial-A- Ride and buses stop almost outside its purple door. Easy to find but not always open. It’s a part-time eaterie. It’s a part-time art gallery, music venue and club space. Nothing wrong with it at all. For its businesses it is in a great location with a pavement in Bakers Avenue for on- street marketing, be it veg or bicycles and a long back yard for storing  Forest Recycling Project preloved goods and for Organiclea volunteers to pack up  organic veggie boxes for distribution by bike to paying customers.

The dinner was very good and the proportions generous. The wait for the main course was unacceptable really but was accepted. Stepping into the Hornbeam is like going home so no-one wants to make miserable noises about the cold chestnut cutlets or the cold cauliflower. The staff,  always nice, deserve better. I’d come in out of the cold and was warmed by the candle-light and cheered up by the colourful RAGWORKS textiles on the wonky walls.

The three course meal cost me  £14.00 in real money. And then it was time for The XFactor Finals. Ah, sweet life.