Last year saw Wandsworth Borough Council declare a Climate Emergency and London become a National Park City. However, despite the focus on the importance of all things green, Wandsworth ranks only 23 – out of London’s 33 boroughs – with only 39% of green cover from the Borough’s parks, trees and front gardens. It was seeing green turning to grey in SW18 that inspired a group of residents to set out to Green the Grid and make the Southfields Grid London’s first Front Garden Friendly Neighbourhood.
Over five million front gardens (one in three) now have no plants growing in them and four and a half million front gardens (one in four) are completely paved over. The worst culprit is London, with half of all front gardens paved over and the biggest decrease of plant cover in front gardens in the UK, with five times as many front gardens with no plants compared to ten years ago. All this amounts to London loosing a green space the size of two and a half Hyde Parks every year, just from people swapping planting for paving in their gardens.
The ‘Green the Grid’ project aims to encourage street and front garden planting in a bid to stop paving and bring important environmental benefits including improving air quality, absorbing more carbon, increasing wildlife, helping to prevent flooding (by letting water drain into the earth and not down the drain) and increase wellbeing.
Over the last 2 years, hundreds of residents in the area have taken part in community planting days; greening their front gardens, creating a community herb garden and transforming over 300 tree bases with thousands of plants and bulbs donated from the Wandsworth Grant Fund. In September 2019, at the first ever Big Green Weekend, people were able to get free gardening advice from neighbours and took part in the Grid’s first Front Garden Trail, visiting different award winning gardens for inspiration.
It is hoped this project will inspire others to create Front Garden Friendly Neighbourhoods as now, more than ever, we need to play our part to combat climate change and make our borough a greener and blooming beautiful place to live!
Keep up-to-date with what we are up to on twitter.com/greenthegrid , at frontgardenfriendly.uk and please get in touch
Nina Kowalska is co-founder of the project, a resident of Southfields and in her professional life has been involved in human rights and environmental projects.