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Plans for community garden in Somers Town unveiled

The Story Garden behind the British Library aims to follow on from the success of the Skip Garden

12 July, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

The site behind the British Library

THE latest plans for a community garden in the heart of Somers Town have been unveiled – and show an oasis of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

The proposals are the culmination of a joint project between King’s Cross-based food and education charity Global Generation and the British Library, and are set to be built on empty land sandwiched between the library and medical research centre the Francis Crick Institute.

Camden Council granted full planning permission in January and the latest application has added extra growing space and outbuildings.

Called the Story Garden, it will include a number of buildings that are easy to assemble. They will be made of low-carbon materials and will be in place for a minimum of three years.

The plans show shipping containers, a straw-bale house and scaffolding boards as the main materials – all of which have been donated. The straw-bale building will be used for classes and talks.

The application adds: “Straw bales have many advantages when used as a construction material. They are very low in embodied carbon. In addition, at the end of the building’s lifespan straw bales are 100 per cent biodegradable.”

And using scaffolding boards saves timber from being put on skips at the end of building programmes, while shipping containers are easy to convert and then re-use, meaning they can be moved on when the Story Garden’s tenure ends.

Parts of the current Skip Garden, found in the former railway lands in King’s Cross, will be dismantled and moved across to the space – they include a classroom built using reclaimed materials from the King’s Cross construction site.

“In addition, the site itself is an educational tool,” says the application. “Parts of it will be built by volunteers in workshops, so methods are kept simple accordingly.”

Growing areas are wide and varied, with the latest layout revealing a series of different habitats. They include a hedge made up of a series of plants that range from hawthorn to sloe berries and Guelder rose. It will provide a year-round source of food and shelter for a variety of birds and insects.

As with the current garden, north of Granary Square, a series of skips will provide growing beds. They will have a mix of fruits and vegetables, pollinator flowers and “companion” flowers.

A world orchard will feature a tree from every continent and show how the UK climate can support a wide range of fruit trees, and nearby a traditional orchard with apple, pear and plum trees will be planted in individual containers, so they can be moved, can be grown in good quality soil and stop roots spreading.

A key aspect will be a set of polytunnels, used for growing seedlings as well as some more tropical vegetables.

The Skip Garden in King’s Cross proved a green-fingered success

This summer it will house sweet potatoes and inca berries, and in the winter crops such as mustard leaf and cos lettuce.

Dotted about the site will be individual crop planters. Finally, an area has been set aside to provide community allotments – which will be overseen by a Global Generation gardener to offer help and advice. There will be bird boxes, bee tubes, bat boxes and insect hotels.

Roly Keating, the British Library’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted to be opening the Story Garden. “We want to continue to make a positive impact within the community and this project will deliver green space.”

Director of Global Generation, Nicole Van den Eijnde, added: “As with the creation of the Skip Garden, the Story Garden will be a garden of a thousand hands, involving school children, young people, residents and employees in the build and planting of the garden, and we hope it will offer a safe and green space for people to enjoy, learn new skills and share experiences.”

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