Vauxhall, London. October
These streets are is heavy with berry and pod. This squatter’s paradise, Bonnington Square, is an inner-city riotous jungle of trees and plants. Tiny plots outside the Victorian houses are bright and green with rowan, birch, fig and the more exotic: banksias and plenty of unidentified rosey, honeying bushes and foliage I have never seen before. Huge palms spike out of the pavement. In the Harleyford Road Community Gardens roles of turf are stacked like lime and chocolate Swiss roles.
A gardener tells me that in this patch they planted a meadow but the nettles and other flagrant leafy bullies moved in and terrorized all the other plants out. So they are replanting. Not to make a prim and trimmed lawn; it will be sown with wild flower seeds to become a luscious little zen-ringed patch tucked in to one of London’s most secret and delightful corners.
The thick and muggy mist has cleared over the city. People sit outside Italo deli in the yellowing autumn sun. A couple try to climb the silver birch in the square. I’ve seen siskinds and goldfinches here.
This is my lunchtime oasis from the office: a green
hideout, tucked away behind fumey, clanking piss-streaked Vauxhallwith its screaming gyratory, the subterranean rumble of trains and the chain cafes that seem to sprout lattes and boxed salads into the rare spaces between the buses and the MI6 spy cameras.
Developers plan to build another monstrous building, a river-side glass and steel tower that will eclipse the sun and blot out the sky over Vauxhall. But Bonnington square has a long rebellious history of community activism and so they are raging
back, fighting for our refuges and wild spaces in the midst of growing cheap developments, sprung-up overnight, unlike mushrooms.
Rage! Resist! Plant!