Energy Garden Internship: The first of its kind

What does community energy mean to you? How about community gardening?

Here at Energy Garden we envisage a cyclical development of green spaces producing food for local people, supported by renewable energy systems. This will all be owned, run and managed by the people that they serve.

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As of Spring 2017, over 20 Energy Gardens have been completed or are well underway across the London Overground Network supplying fruit, vegetables and herbs for our communities to enjoy year round. This puts in place the beginnings of a green economy; in the coming months a share offer will be launched to raise money for co-ownership of renewable energy system, which will serve to financially maintain the gardens. Money raised will also contribute to other environmental and social returns such as lessons on renewable energy & horticulture in schools.

It’s hard to believe that this time a year ago we were recruiting for the first Energy Garden internship cohort. The programme, put together by Eric Schloss and Luke Jones of Repowering, was designed to offer young people from London an insight into the world of sustainability. The interns benefitted from the experience of an organisation that helped install the first community owned solar arrays on social housing. They were also paid for their time and gained AQA Certificates – a great CV booster.

 

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Visits to rooftop solar systems in Brixton, Anaerobic Digesters at Kings Cross and community gardens across Hackney and Kensington, as well as hands-on sessions making and installing solar panels gave the interns a real grassroots experience grounded in the work that Londoners are doing in the green revolution.

Knowledge-building sessions hearing from experts such as Afsheen Rashid MBE, Co-founder of Repowering and Director of Community Energy England, and Tom Shakhli, manager of the Brixton Pound local currency movement, gave the interns a deeper understanding of social enterprise and what it means to put social aims at the heart of your business.

 

 

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Recruitment involved 2 taster sessions introducing a pool of eager candidates to the project and the course. A group of 12 interns crystallized, from all corners of London, with varying levels of experience and interest. After a first session at community venue the Hive in Dalston, the young people really began to gel as a group, and good relationships formed, with 70% of participants planning to stay in touch. 

Energy Garden places community energy and community gardening at its core, so it was essential to have the right mix of practical and theoretical learning. Understanding the community was highly important, and the interns were set two surveying activities as part of the AQA certificate modules. One involved engaging with the market traders in the world-famous Brixton Market to find out why they did (or didn’t) accept the Brixton Pound. The other activity challenged the interns to speak with commuters on the Overground Network to find out how they perceived the garden at Hampstead Heath, and whether they would be interested in getting involved. Everyone rose to the challenge; these activities can really boost young people’s sense of confidence and connection to others. This can be seen in the post-program evaluation survey results, with 100% of participants reporting an increased level of confidence in ability to engage their communities.

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The last session took place at the Cordwainers Grow garden in Hackney, where the last days of Autumn meant peas, beans and greens could be planted. Emotional good byes were said, but the seeds had been sown.

72 AQA Certificates, 3 job references, a youtube video, 4 DIY solar panels and 60 Brixton Pounds later; 12 young people had completed the world’s first ever course on community energy and gardening.

 

Energy Garden Ale: Beer from the Overground!

Introducing the Energy Garden Ale, an English Pale Ale made with golden hops straight from Brondesbury Park Overground! The beer was brewed at U Brew, an open brewery in the heart of London. What makes this beer special is that it is brewed with fresh hops from the Energy Garden, whereas most beers are made with dried hops.

 

You can watch the video to see the steps in making Energy Garden Ale!

 

Brondesbury Park Station Update

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It's been just under a year since our community consultation at Brondesbury Park station, and thanks to the hard work of local residents, station staff, volunteers and the Green Team, it has become a community garden filled with flowers and vegetables, a solar powered pump, compost bin, and hedge hog hut. You can help out as you pass through by weeding, watering, and putting plant matter into the compost bin to enrich the soil.

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Currently, vegetables such as broad beans, tri-colour pak choy, and lettuce are growing in and will soon be ready for harvest. In the past, hops, broccoli, carrots, aubergines, strawberries and raspberries have been grown and harvested here. These were made into quiches, samosas and more, and the hops were even brewed into beer!

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Spring flowers are also supporting honey bees and bumble bees, which are under threat in London and play a key role in supporting our food production. We're looking forward to more growth and flowers with warmer weather!

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Growth at Caledonian Road & Barnsbury living wall

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The living wall at Caledonian Road & Barnsbury Overground is filling in with growth! Ferns such as polypodium vulgare trap particles and improve air quality along the platform, while heuchra caramel, lime, and palace purple provide year round color and flowers that attract bees during the spring and summer.

 

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You'll also find Stachys byzantina, known as Lamb's Ear for its shape and soft texture. It's commonly grown for children's gardens and its leaves were historically used as wound dressings.

 

 

 

 

All these plants will keep filling out the wall, so be sure to visit next time you're at the station!

 

Clapton Complete!

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The Energy Garden Green team has completed another Energy Garden at Clapton station! Introducing soil in planters to the station increases the diversity of organisms, which can lead to a higher density of wildlife and improved biodiversity. These little plants will grow into a lush garden so make sure to check on its progress on your commute!

First of the Energy Garden Living Walls up at Penge West

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The first of a range of living walls to be installed by the Energy Garden team accross London. Here at Penge West station you can see the wall has come alive with a plethora of leafy green plants. These plants not only look great, they are particularly good at reducing local air pollution, so they are actively contributing to London's environment. 

Between the sections of the wall you can see the beautiful bug huts which are the perfect homes for bees and pollinating insects. By putting these homes on public infrastructure Penge West is doing it's bit for London's biodiversity. 

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Willesden Junction complete!

An amazing and heartfelt thanks to the Energy Garden team who continue to add beauty to London's Oveground platforms. This latest installation at Willesden Junction may bear the colours of winter now, but in a few short months the hard work will pay off with an array of exciting bits of greenery. 

The team cleared an area of scrub, and replaced it with wooden edging to create an orchard, which includes apples, pears, cherry, damsons and quince. This is placed where two walkways converge so it can be seen by the passengers. We planted a native hedgerow running over 30 metres along a fence and up to the new orchard.  They also placed 3 planters on the platform and planted fan trained apples which were under-planted with assorted produce including salads. A planter was also placed on a plinth outside one of the entrances, also planted with an apple tree and under-planted with lavenders. Beautiful stuff! 

We are greatly looking forward to now bringing in the local groups who were so instructive and helpful during the consultation stages to get involved and take ownership of this infrastructure as it now belongs to them!