At our Dobbins Field site, we have built raised beds, erected polytunnels, and planted an orchard. Our volunteers meet on a Saturday morning between 10am and midday and we are always happy to greet and include new people who want to get their hands dirty. (All gardening is currently suspended due to COVID-19).
We are inspired by the ethos of permaculture, and seek to emulate its principles of earth care, people care and fair share.
Rewilding is a phrase that is more and more common in discussions about nature. While we are not (currently) advocating for a reintroduction of wolves into south-west London, we are definitely committed to protecting, supporting, and increasing the wildlife we have onsite.
We strive to strike a balance with food production for our own use, and creating and/or maintaining food sources for wildlife. As much as possible we disturb only the designated areas for food production, and leave the rest of the site wild and natural, with absolutely no unnecessary tidying, cutting, or clearing. We call this “ungardening.”
For example, we have a natural abundance of stinging nettles. We clear a small amount from our pathways, but other than that we let them grow naturally. These nettles are a food source for lots of insect life, and in particular, butterflies. In the summer months we have Commas, Red Admirals, Holly Blues, Brimstones, Large Whites, Small Tortoiseshells, Painted Ladies, Orange Tips, Gatekeepers, Speckled Woods, and of course the magnificent Peacock.
Making and mending
There is a lot of tinkering, fixing, and upcycling at Paradise Cooperative. We aim to reuse as much as possible, and so most of our infrastructure has been built by volunteers from salvaged or donated excess material from local builders and other trades.
Our outdoor campfire and the woodburner in our Yurt are both fed from our onsite woodstore. This wood in turn comes from locally felled trees donated by local tree surgeons and neighbours. The wood is split and dried in our purpose built woodstore, and our volunteers can attest to the old adage “Firewood warms you twice, once when you split it, and again when it burns.”
Preparing for planting
We love to celebrate the seasons at Paradise Cooperative, as it provides a rhythm to our year and a way to acknowledge growth and change. Many joyful hours have been spent sitting around our campfire, telling stories, sharing food, and staring into the embers. Sunrise too has been observed many times at Paradise, and the pure unadulterated joy of experiencing the dawn chorus on a Spring morning is beyond words.