The Faces of Cressingham – Part Three: Meet Pamela

Part three of a series in which our Features Editor, Keith Lewis, along with Photographer, Jeannine Mansell, meet some of the residents of Cressingham Gardens. 

1Pamela has a garden out back. But things won’t grow, on account of the sycamore tree that looms over it.

“It covers the garden in shade,” she says.

But perhaps this shade was fortuitous – for while gardening is Pamela’s thing, she has taken her love of it and spread it amongst the community of Cressingham.

“I got interested and decided to do a master gardening course,” she tells me. “Things just grew from there really.”

Pamela’s enthusiasm towards community engagement was helped along with a bit of money from the Capital Growth Grant.

RELATED: Video launched to support ‘Save Cressingham Gardens’ campaign

“This was essentially an ambitious Olympic incentive to get London growing the food it needed to feed the games. The grant was £250,” she explains. “It certainly gave us a kick-start.”

So she walks me around Cressingham to show me what the community has been up to.

“One thing I do is go around the estate twice a week collecting food waste, to put in a compost tumbler to ferment into growing medium,” she tells me. “Most people get involved in that.”

We’re up near the ‘Teletubby Hills’, as many of the estates residents know the mounds of earth on the park side of the estate. Pamela goes up to a green hexagon and unlatches a little hatch.

“Mind the smell,” she says, as she opens it up and drops the contents of a few food waste bins.

It did reek a bit.

“We’re trying to get the estate as sustainable as possible,” she says.

Then there are the leaves to be dealt with.

“It seems crazy to me that the leaves which fall from these trees are then collected by a big lorry and whisked off some place else,” says Pamela.

It did seem absurd, I admit.

She points to a small pen of chicken wire, used for holding the collected leaves.

“They should stay where they land. Put back into the earth, that’s what I say. So that’s another thing we are doing. We make a leaf mould pile, so that crumbles down into a growing medium too.”

3We walk around more, Pamela pointing out small beds they’ve been working on outside different homes.

“We also got a loan from Lambeth Living, for £500, to work on the community gardens around Cressingham,” she explains.

It is undoubtedly Pamela’ energy that won this financial help. She certainly keeps busy. So much so that in October last year she won the Garden Organic Achievement Award (sponsored by Harrod Horticultural).

Pamela won because she has been an inspiration. She has engaged most of the community of Cressingham in her schemes to grow, and make the estate look nice.

These aren’t her words though. It seems to me that Pamela would never admit such things. In fact, it was a friend of hers who had suggested I get in touch.

“I do enjoy the social opportunity that engaging with the community provides,” she says when I congratulate her on her award.

Certainly, as we walk around the estate, there isn’t one person Pamela doesn’t know. You may have seen her yourself, wandering around Brockwell Park, taking groups fungus foraging, or running the children’s group at the greenhouses.

She picks through a large bed used to grow produce, outside one of the resident’s homes, tugging at a few unwanted weeds.

“Pak Choi was one of the first things we grew. And Callalo.”

Even walking around at this time of year, there’s all sorts. Potatoes, cabbage, fennel. Pamela brushes her fingers through some sage. Then some parsley.

“Of course you don’t get buy in from everybody. Some people would still prefer to shop in Iceland than eat home grown food,” she says.

Then Pamela looks at me, with a wry smile, like she’s about to confess something. She leans in.

“I’ve also embarked on some guerilla mint planting… in resident’s front gardens… I usually ask, but sometimes I just stick it down. Let’s be honest, it brightens the place up.”

Pamela’s been living on Cressingham for seven years now.

“I love this community. It’s why I call myself a ‘last time’ buyer,” she explains. Pamela doesn’t see herself going anywhere else.

2“I was originally born in London Hospital. I guess that makes me a cockney,” she smiles.

“I like the diversity of Cressingham. A mixture of old residents and many first-time buyers. Quite often though, like anywhere, the first time buyers are interested in making a place better to sell up and move on.”

I mention the R word.

“All this talk of regeneration – it sounded like a nice thing really, if you ask me.”

And I guess, listening to Pamela, that regeneration is exactly what she is doing. Her work certainly brings the concept back to its core.

“What about security?” I ask.

“Of course, the council tenants are a little insecure. It’s natural for them to feel insecure and why wouldn’t they. There was one person on the estate that I remember pushing for a move to Margate, or wherever was being spoken about at the time. But I think most of these rumours are just talk.”

“Any gripes,” I ask.

“The drains don’t run away properly,” she says.

We were now stood, admiring a large bed on the park side of the estate. It’s mild for February. The birds are out, singing along to what they think might be spring.

“If I had my time over, I’d do a bird count,” says Pamela.

“Plenty of parrots,” I say, looking behind me at the park.

“Mmmm, parakeets,” she says. “I don’t really see the point in vegetarian birds,” laughs Pamela.

I could see her point. After all, she does have gardens to protect.


  1. Loved the article, loved reading about Pamela and Cressingham. There are parrots in Brockwell Park, so a herbalist gorilla in Cressingham seemed entirely probable. If I don’t read about the Ritzy using a giraffe to change the lettering on it’s signage next week, I’ll feel slightly cheated.

  2. Thanks for pointing this out Rubeus.
    I’d love to blame spell check. Instead I’ll blame a self-proclaimed dyslexia for words containing a double L. Thanks goodness I don’t live in Wales, eh. Or Spain for that matter.
    I hope you are enjoying the series nonetheless.
    – Features Ed

  3. “I’ve also embarked on some gorilla mint planting” Wow, sounds like a job for David Attenborough…unless of course the writer meant “guerilla”!

Comments are closed.