Once derelict church in Kentish Town saves the day for charity gardening project

Rev John March (vicar of St Luke's Kentish Town) with young people from the Leighton Education Proje

Rev John March (vicar of St Luke's Kentish Town) with young people from the Leighton Education Project who are starting to work on the garden at the church, from left Omar (21), Robin (23), Ama (19), Kaylie (22), Daniel (22), Project manager Jenny Pounde and Siobhan (19). - Credit: Archant

A once derelict church has saved the day for a charity about to lose its much-loved garden tended by young disabled people.

The youngsters, who plant herbs and flowers on a terrace above the Elfrida Rathbone Charity, (ERC) in Dowdney Close, Kentish Town, were faced with losing the space when the charity had to move floors in the office block.

However, in a serendipitous turn of good luck, St Luke’s Church which is just around the corner in Oseney Crescent, Kentish Town, and has recently reopened after 20 years in disrepair, offered up its garden for the youngsters to transform weeds and mud into a blossoming vegetable patch.

“We were searching around for somewhere to have our 30th anniversary and we hadn’t thought of St Luke’s because it had been derelict for so long,” said Briony Baldwin, who volunteers for the charity which helps around 500 disabled people and their families each year. ‘‘But then we discovered that we had lots in common so we decided to team up.

“The first thing is starting the gardening project and the Rev Jon March wants to improve disabled access in the church, so he is very keen to speak to some of our young people.”

As spring arrives, they will begin hoeing and raking and planting flowers, herbs and vegetables that will be used in the Elfrida Rathbone’s kitchen and sold at their regular stall in Camden Market.

The charity’s education project manager, Jenny Pounde, said: “Gardening is such a therapeutic activity for the students.

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“It helps them to build confidence, develop new skills and to build on the things they have learned about so far – like socialising, working as a team and taking responsibility.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for them to feel part of the community.”

Volunteer Daniel Sartain, 22, from Hoxton, spent an enthusiastic morning raking and digging the flower beds.

“I like growing vegetables best – runner beans carrots, cucumbers, potatoes – everything,” he said. “I am absolutely looking forward to it.”

Kayleigh Edwards, who enjoys gardening at home in Camden, helped collect a dozen bags of leaves and rubbish.

“I like daffodils best,” said the 22-year-old. “I walk past here to my house. It will be nice to see my flowers.”

The Rev March, who re-opened the church a year ago and now has a congregation of 130 people, said: “When we heard that there was a need for some open space for these young people to work in, it seemed like an obvious fit.”

He added: “It really is a dialogue. We will be talking to ERC students about their issues and how best we can serve all those in our community who have difficulty accessing our church.

“This is a very exciting partnership.”