The East London Garden Society

The Voice ‐ March 2017

Comment by Geoff

For years, there have been many beautiful gardens in east London. After all, everyone has a garden in their mind; it’s the ability to bring it to fruition which is the problem.

Therefore, it is annoying to see East London Council authorities not even acknowledging a garden’s value by failing to protect planting regimes and a garden’s infrastructure.


Candlewick, lungwort, and beggar’s blanket: mullein’s names reveal a great many ways the tall, downy plant has been used in the West. Dunked in tallow, the flowering stalk makes a cheap torch, or candle, and its soft, hairy leaves may be slightly more comfortable than bare ground if you're down on your luck and sleeping outdoors.

The plant is still plugged by modern-day herbalists as being effective against all manner of respiratory ailments. Imbibed as tea, mullein's expectorant saponins and mucilaginous juices are sometimes treated to help soothe coughs and sore throats. The finished infusion has the colour of a rich broth and tastes faintly sweet with a slippery finish on the back of the throat.

You will find mullein on bare, hard-baked ground around driveways. Beginning as a grey-green rosette of six to twelve inch leaves, mullein will eventually produce a flowering spike and open beautiful little yellow flowers, one at a time. Back to top

The Future of Public Parks

Over the last few months, the Communities and Local Government Committee has been reviewing the future of Public Parks to examine the impact of reduced local authority budgets on these open spaces and consider concerns surrounding their future. Fields in Trust were one of 379 organisations and individuals to submit evidence to the Inquiry. Read their submission.

The Inquiry Report warns that parks face a period of decline from their current situation, with potentially severe consequences unless their vital contribution to public health, community integration and climate change mitigation is recognised. The Report highlights considerable challenges, including reduced council spending, and parks management budget cuts of up to 97 per cent, particularly as a result of pressures to increase housing supply. The Committee calls on councils to publish strategic plans, setting out how parks will be managed to promote healthy lifestyles, tackle social exclusion and manage flood risk.

Fields in Trust Chief Executive, Helen Griffiths, comments on the Report findings and recommendations:
“I welcome the Communities and Local Government Committee report into the future of parks and particularly the recommendation that their wider value should be recognised, beyond leisure and recreation, to include promoting healthy lifestyles and tackling social exclusion; the CLG Committee suggest parks should maximise their contribution to wider local authority agendas. As an advocate for parks, playing fields and recreation grounds Fields in Trust has been calling for just such a re-valuing of greenspace, to take account of the vital contribution they make to local communities.

Fields in Trust believe we should re‐value our green spaces as a resource which contributes to public health, mental wellbeing and community cohesion, not simply viewing parks as a drain on council finances for upkeep, and we welcome the Committee’s recognition of that fact. Now that this value is acknowledged it is important that local authorities are supported to ensure green spaces are protected from development, and maintained for public recreation for future generations.

As the recently published Housing White Paper has shown, there is pressure on land across the UK for housing and commercial development; existing planning legislation alone is not sufficient to prevent the loss of parks and playing fields.

Some landowners and local authorities have worked with Fields in Trust to independently secure their green spaces; ensuring accessible public recreational land is protected forever. Fields in Trust welcome the CLG Committee recommendation that councils should publish a strategy to demonstrate the value of parks. Without the protection of this land, there is no guarantee that the contribution green spaces make to health and wellbeing can be sustained.” Back to top

A film about Southwark Park in the summer of 2014

A documentary film commissioned by the Friends of Southwark Park to mark 150 years since the Act of Parliament that established the park in Bermondsey/Rotherhithe, South‐East London, where it remains intact today. The park was opened in 1869 for the people and they’ve been using it ever since. See It’s Our Park
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Turning a Dying River into a Paradise

In the year 2000, Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal decided that it was time to clean up the Kali Bein river. For centuries, city governments along the river had been dumping their human waste and garbage into this waterway. After unsuccessfully attempting to convince the government to stop dumping waste into the river, he drew on the Sikh tradition of free voluntary service. That’s when Sant Sichewal jumped in for a cleansing bath of a different kind: one designed to awaken the people. He began cleaning the river single‐handedly until his many narrations on the history and value of the Bein to Sikh history drew hundreds of followers to the task.

Seechewal built a small team of recruits who would, in turn, teach the local people along the Kali Bein why they should clean their river. Their successful campaign raised funds for equipment, enlisted countless volunteers to provide physical work, and more than two dozen villages began helping in the efforts.

The scale of the task was gigantic. Volunteers cleared the entire riverbed of water hyacinth and silt, and built riverbanks and roads alongside the river. When appeals to government and municipal bodies failed to stop dirty water flowing into the river, Seechewal launched a public‐awareness campaign to encourage villagers to dispose of their sewage elsewhere.

Some villages revived traditional methods of waste disposal and treatment, and farmers lined up for a share of the treated water. After they could no longer deny the astonishing effects of Seechewal’s efforts, a government order to divert water from a nearby canal was finally obtained. As the riverbed was cleared, natural springs revived and the river began to fill up.

With the restoration of its water flow, thousands of hectares of land have been reclaimed from water‐logging. After a 400‐year long period of neglect and pollution, this once revolting river now teems with life and is a beautiful sight for all who live near it.

Seechewal’s mission teaches humanity a lesson of how to incite meaningful change, without the use of government force. Even if the government had mandated through the threat of force that the river not be polluted, many people would have ignored this as they had no other means or knowledge to act otherwise. The only thing that saved this sacred river from becoming a flowing pit of toxic death was one man’s ability to lead by example.
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Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Smashed Cucumber Salad with Lemon Herb Dressing and Feta Cheese

Salads are a staple diet for people who wish to make positive changes to their health. You can have a salad during breakfast, lunch or dinner using your favourite crisp vegetables. Add in some high‐quality protein, fruits, raw nuts and seeds plus a drizzle of flavourful salad dressing, and you’ve got a hearty and wholesome meal.

If you’re running out of ideas for your next salad, look no further than this salad from My Longevity Kitchen. The cool and refreshing taste of cucumbers will tickle your taste buds. The creamy feta cheese and tangy and rich lemon‐olive oil dressing complement the cucumbers.


  • 1 English cucumber (seedless), peeled
  • 3 ounces of sheep milk feta cheese (If raw sheep feta is not available, substitute with organic feta cheese)
  • 1 small handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 chives or 1 chopped spring onion
  • 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
  • Zest from ¼ organic lemon
  • ¼ cup pf olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon of Himalayan salt

Method: Place the peeled cucumber on a large cutting board with a larger sheet of plastic wrap covering the cucumber on all sides. Smash it using a heavy‐bottom pan by pressing down on one end of the cucumber until you feel it start to crack.

Starting at the same end, give the cucumber a few whacks until it starts splitting and smashing all the way down its length. After smashing, remove the plastic, and slice the cucumber into one‐inch slices, leaving the cucumber in its original shape. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cucumber onto a serving platter, recreating the shape of the smashed cucumber. Mix the dressing of parsley, chives, lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt.

When it’s time to eat, scatter the feta cheese pieces over the cucumber. Drizzle the dressing on the cucumber and feta, being sure to also cover the outside pieces. Serve with a spoon. This delicious salad will store well in the fridge, even though it becomes watery.
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