Avant-Gardening has now completed Flowers in the Wood, a year long exploration of the Flowers Estate in Abbey Wood funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Throughout the project we worked with the local community to creatively explore the estate and its environment and looking at new ways of engagement
During the summer of 2010 we launched the project by taking the publicworks designed Mobile Porch and Lisa Cheung's Mobile Allotment onto the estate and used these as focal points for a range of workshops and activities which included; transforming an unused and littered entrance to the woods into a natural play 'WildZone' for a day, making salads from leaves grown in the Mobile Allotment, dyeing clothes with blackberries and creating a one day pop up art exhibition. Following on from the success of WildZone Abbey Wood, organised in collaboration Wild Zones, Avant-Gardening fed into Sowing the Seeds, a report commissioned by the London Sustainable Development Commission, to look into the need to re-engage children with nature and natural play. This event proved to be one of the highlights of the project and has led to Avant-Gardening exploring more concepts of natural play in its work with children
In the autumn we began a programme of activities with the Alexander McLeod School. Our workshops there capitalised on the schools status as a Forest School and together the pupils, teacher and lead artist explored the local ancient woods and the children created a number of guides to the woods The pupils also created their own advertising campaign to promote useage of the woods and the flyers they created were displayed at a pop-up exhibition in the school yard and distributed through a local cafe. At the end of 2010 the Mobile Allotment moved from the green on Commonwealth Way into the school grounds where the pupils planted a selection of flowers and vegetables - their mobile garden was taken and exhibited at the Mayor's Newham Show in summer 2011 to show how even the smallest of spaces can be turned into a mini-oasis!
Alongside these activities Avant_Gardening also began a programme of walks with the residents; exploring the many gems in the area, from the woods themselves to the ruins of Lesnes Abbey. The walks were another very poular part of the programme and were a great way for the community to come together and share their local knowledge, anecdotes and memories as well as enjoying the treasures that we sometimes foget our on our doorsteps
One comment that kept being made was that there are lots of flowers on the Flowers Estate, but, in name only; Carnation Street, Viola Avenue, Dahlia Road - the names are evocative but these streets and the Flowers Estate as a whole is criticised for its mono-culture; the ubiquitous grass lawn. Avant-Gardening worked with the community to discuss what changes they would like to see and how they could be sustained into the future.
Flowers in the Wood was a part of the larger Feeling Good About Where You Live project a multi-agency research project headed by Greenwich NHS and Greenwich Council. As well as being highlighted in the Sowing the Seeds report Flowers in the Woods has been reported on in Inside Housing and is being cited in research by Walk England into local initiatives to promote walking