Hackney volunteers tend to Overground station gardens

Steph, Nimoa and Nadine are helping to beautify a Hackney station.  

Steph, Nimoa and Nadine are helping to beautify a Hackney station. - Credit: Kyle Baldock

A group of green-fingered volunteers have been hard at work beautifying Hackney's Overground stations.

Energy Garden is London’s urban transformation gardening project, set up in 2011. It works with community groups across the city to grow food and plants at around 30 different stations, with more than 300 active volunteers. 

The organisation has a mission to aesthetically transform Rectory Road and other Hackney Overground stations - including Hackney Downs, Clapton, and Stoke Newington. 

Although the project has been in the works for three years, with various levels of community involvement, this year it has seen a renewed interest due to the pandemic, with many new volunteers signing up to tend to the station’s raised beds and planters. 

Kyle Baldock is the community engagement and communications lead for Energy Garden, as well as the volunteer coordinator for Rectory Road, where he oversees a group of about 25 volunteers. 

“Covid has been critical for us getting a lot more volunteer interest, especially from a younger demographic,” said Kyle, who lives in Clapton.

"Throughout the different lockdowns, we've been able to work with the rail, the council, and with our volunteers to make sure that we can still look after the gardens and keep everyone safe at the same time.”

Volunteers Amalie and Alex at a gardening session at Rectory Road.

Volunteers Amalie and Alex at a gardening session at Rectory Road. - Credit: Kyle Baldock

Energy Garden works with local community group Stoke Newington Common Users Group to plan the garden, organise volunteers and coordinate gardening efforts.

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“As soon as this cold period is over, we are going to go mad planting summer bulbs, seeds, and food,” said Kyle.

“The big focus this summer is growing food because it's the most engaging activity that brings in lots of different demographics, backgrounds, and age groups together.”  

Volunteers encourage commuters to take grown vegetables home once they have been harvested.

Kyle said: “It is really important for people to see that these common spaces like train stations don't have to be just grey and grim buildings – they can host life and bring communities together.” 

To bring in more volunteers, the Rectory Road project has connected with the Nightingale Residents Association for Nightingale Estate. 

James MacDaid, a resident of Nightingale Estate and volunteer for the Rectory Road transformation project, said: "I am just trying to get more people involved from our estate. It’s our local station, so it’s nice to be able to make it look a lot better.”

Hackney residents can get involved in the project by emailing kyle@energygarden.org.uk

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