London grows almost none of its own food. More than 50% of the vegetables and 95% of the fruit we consume are grown abroad. Supermarkets scour the globe for the cheapest food sources. But as oil starts to become scarce the price of fuel will inevitably rise and our current food supply lines will be threatened. Climate change and increasing competition for fresh water are also going to hit many regions that currently provide our food.
Although Belsize can’t grow all of its own food we can produce some of it. With a tiny scrap of growing space such as a window sill you can grow your own salad leaves and stop buying air-freighted herbs and salads in plastic bags from supermarkets! With a small balcony you can grow delicious tomatoes, peas and beans that can be eaten throughout the summer and autumn. There’s also tremendous pleasure to be gained from watching nature perform its magic and reconnecting with the seasons and the soil!
We now have three public food growing sites in Belsize:
- The Premier Inn Hotel Car Park Site, on the corner of Ornan Road and Haverstock Hill. There's a regular work session on the first Sunday of every month from 2-3pm.
- The Fruitery, behind St Peter's Church in Belsize Square.
- The Royal Free Permaculture Garden, in the Heath Strange Garden above the Royal Free car park.
Transition Belsize is also working on other ways to relocalize our food, such as Foraging. From blackberries to nettles, many edible wild plants can form a free, delicious and nutritious part of our diet. In 2009/10 we ran a four workshop course called "Foraging For All Seasons" to teach people which wild plants are edible and which are poisonous. We're planning to run another "Foraging For All Seasons" course in due course.
Cultivated fruits also abound in our neighbourhood, which is full of unharvested fruit trees (pears, apples, mulberries and more) whose fruit ends up rotting on the pavement. Our Abundance Project is about mapping fruit trees in our area, and harvesting and processing the fruit into juices, dried fruit, fruit leathers and jams.
We are also exploring new ways of buying our food outside the regular supermarket distribution model, which puts middlemen and many miles between producers and consumers. In 2011 Transition Belsize piloted an Organic Vegetable Distribution Scheme, working with a farmer just outside London who brought his harvest to around 20 households throughout the growing season. We're now participating in the Kentish Town Vegbox scheme.
We also host events to connect the community to learning skills and our abundant local food, including food growing workshops and local food production workshops.
Tue 27 Mar 2:00pm - 7:00pm
The Royal Free Hospital has very kindly given Transition Belsize a plot of land for food growing. It’s in the Heath Strange Garden above the hospital car park. The plan is to plant fruit trees, fruit bushes and medicinal herbs, and to install raised beds so that the children at the hospital primary school can learn how to grow food.
On Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th March we - 25 volunteers - moved five tons of compost on to the site by hand and then planted fruit trees in sunken barrels so that the roots don't penetrate into the hospital department below the garden. We also planted some fruit bushes and some rhubarb (for Alexis!).
Sat 14 Apr 2:00pm - 5:00pm
Sun 25 Mar 11:00am - 4:00pm
The Royal Free Hospital have kindly given Transition Belsize a plot of land to plant fruit trees and medicinal herbs. There will also be raised beds so that children at the Royal Free primary school can grow food.
The fun starts this Sunday 25th March when we'll be planting the fruit trees from 11am. The site is in the Heath Strange Garden, which is above the Royal Free car park. Everyone is welcome.
On Saturday 14th April we'll be running a raised bed workshop on the site from 2pm to 5pm so do come along if you'd like to learn how to build raised beds.
Tue 20 Dec 10:00am - 12:00pm
Sun 18 Dec 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Come and help break ground on an exciting new Transition Belsize project called The Fruitery! We are planning to transform some land at the back of St Peters church in Belsize Square into a productive, communal space that can be shared and enjoyed by the community. During the next few months we want to turn it into a showcase forest garden. First the site needs some preparation work so we need your help! There will be shrub and root clearance to be done, as well as generally tidying the site.
Sun 20 Nov 2:00pm - 5:00pm
Permaculture is the solutions toolkit and philosophy underpinning the Transition movement. It's about using our brains to design energy and waste out of systems, and about working with nature rather than seeking to subjugate it. See here for Rob Hopkins on what permaculture is and how it's linked to Transition. Transition Belsize are offering a course of four urban permaculture classes (three hours per session). This course will involve work on the Royal Free Hospital estate where we have been given a plot of land. As well as learning about the principles of permaculture in an urban setting, participants will design and create a forest garden food growing site.
Sun 20 Nov 11:00am - 1:00pm
The Transition Belsize Food Growing Group have been practicing permaculture by building and planting public food growing sites. The first one was created in the car park of the Premier Inn Hotel on Ornan Road, just off Haverstock Hill. It includes raised beds, rainwater harvesting and wormeries.
This Sunday, between 11am and 1pm, there's a gathering at the Premier Inn site to do maintenance, to socialise and to think about what next. Anyone is welcome to come. You can help or just watch or ask questions.
Sat 26 Nov 10:00am - 4:00pm
The Food Group of Transition Belsize was hoping to stage a rerun of its "Foraging for All Seasons" course starting Saturday 26 November. from 10am to 4pm. This would have comprised four all-day workshops, one per season of the year. However due to insufficient demand we have decided to postpone this course until spring 2012.
The "Foraging For All Seasons" course is designed to teach participants how to identify edible, poisonous, medicinal and useful plants, but also to provide Transition Belsize with a pool of volunteers who can lead plant identification walks.