The creator of a garden just metres from the Brixton Road that produces grapes for red wine and other fruits and vegetables is appealing for help to save this unique local treasure.
John Spicer, who lives in Angell Terrace near the police station, has spent more than 11 years creating a wonderful garden behind the terrace.
It is also a wildlife haven – one of the few places in central London where pied wagtails, for instance, can be seen.
But Lambeth council’s housing department is threatening to grub up the garden at the end of this week.
Spicer has encountered unexplained hostility to his garden over several years from a minority of other residents of the terrace. One of them did serious damage to the garden in recent years from which it is still recovering.
It contains 29 mature vines producing Black Hamburg grapes, perhaps one of the tastiest dessert varieties in the world.
Duncan Law, chair of Transition Town Brixton, said the council should be “protecting and supporting” the garden not digging it up.
In a letter to senior councillors and local MP Helen Hayes he says: “It is a demonstration project of sustainable, productive gardening and food-growing in an urban environment that should be used as an academy for the future not returned to ‘green concrete’ – grass that yields no biodiversity and little amenity benefit.
“It has featured in several tours by Incredible Edible Lambeth of exemplary food-growing spaces in Lambeth.”
Law said he is a “champion of the rapid system change that we will need to negotiate and survive the climate and other changes that are coming down the line.
“Urban food growing is an essential part of the transition to a net zero Lambeth by 2030, reducing food miles to yards, supplying up to 30% of the fruit and vegetables that Lambeth needs every year (much of which is currently imported), fostering biodiversity, beauty, community involvement around food – a potent rallying point (as the Loughborough Farm and the 100-plus community growing spaces in Lambeth evidence), mental and physical well-being, some relief from food poverty as well as community resilience, which we so need in an era of increasing challenges.”
Law taught on a permaculture course that Spicer did in 2000, when he was also a key volunteer at Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses.
“He has been a champion and practitioner of permaculture – the design philosophy that is the foundation of the global transition movement – ever since,” said Law.
“He is a system thinker, solutionist and pioneer – and, like many prophets, is undervalued and persecuted in his own time.
“Given that by our own government’s risk assessment we will be experiencing Mediterranean temperatures before the end of the century in the summer, John’s conception of an urban viticulture industry is not fanciful.
“Indeed, he is doing a pretty good job already. There is already a Brixton Beer produced from hops grown in people’s gardens and Vauxhall City Farm.
“The Urban Wine Company makes wine from grapes grown in London gardens, famously Chateau Tooting.
“John himself has made wine, jams, grape juice as well as amazing dessert grapes.”
Law said Helen Hayes can vouch for his vintage, as can the Blog.
“Vines are a big multi-functional solution for a warming world,” Law said.
“They can grow up buildings without harm or on pergolas in gardens and produce shade … and heat-gain reduction which will be essential, especially on solid walls, whilst also producing a productive crop.
“John is a real expert in this field and could advise communities and estates on turning this into a productive, community enterprise which could even generate employment as well as resilience and well-being.”
The Angell Terrace garden also produces herbs and vegetables as well as other fruit and soft fruit.
A beautiful sumac tree is also threatened with destruction when, Law says, it is actually a source of high value spice that could be harvested to make delicious drinks and even spice to sell.
He tells the council: “I beg you to IMMEDIATELY put a stay of execution on the destruction of this amazing garden, explore with John and perhaps Incredible Edible Lambeth and Lambeth’s climate and community teams, how this essential ‘future resource’ for Lambeth’s transition can be supported and how John’s initiative over 10 years can be harnessed to contribute to the urgent transition.
“I look forward to hearing this week that the destruction, scheduled for the end of this week or early next, will not proceed. And that a plan will be put in place to support John and this garden to be vital pioneers for a productive, biodiverse, beautiful future in all the gardens and green spaces of Lambeth.”