Community gardening in Forest Gate and beyond

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Forest Gate Community garden stalwart, Derek Smith, surveys community gardening in the Forest Gate locality and shows how you can get involved.

There are three community gardens in the Forest Gate area. Forest Gate Community Garden, the Up Garden, and Manor Park Community Garden. The latter is not in Forest Gate, but in easy walking distance, either through Manor Park cemetery or along the Flats.

All three of the gardens are on land owned by the Council. Forest Gate Community Garden and Manor Park have leases. So both have to justify their existence by what they do in the space to ensure the lease is renewed. While The UP Garden has simply taken on the upkeep of a neglected space, with none of the hassle of lease renewal. 

Forest Gate Community Garden

The garden is on Earlham Grove, about 100m west of Woodgrange Road. It is bordered by Earlham Grove, Sprowston Road, and the Gateway estate along its eastern edge. The space had been a hostel for abused women until 2006, when it was abandoned to buddleia and sycamores. In 2013 a group approached the Council to set it up as a community garden. The group finally got a lease in 2015 and worked to clear rubbish and buddleia, build raised beds, a pond, and finally put in plants. The garden opened to the public in 2016. Since then it has run music events, various celebrations for Winter, Christmas and Spring, art activities, children’s activities, as well as regular plant sales.

 The fence was originally wooden boards with a colourful mural. When part of it blew down in the winter of 2022, the opportunity was taken to erect a wire fence, making the garden more visible, and less intimidating. A prized part of the garden are the two large, colourful mosaics, one a snail, the other a frog

Forest Gate WI have met here, Woodcraft Folk use it in the warmer months, as do local artists. There are three paid, part-time workers: a gardener, an admin worker, and an outreach worker with all other helpers volunteers. The garden is a charity, open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday morning, always with volunteers in attendance. The philosophy is to be more than a garden, having regular events with music, art, food, and activities for children.


Garden volunteers looks after some of the raised bed in the Forest Gate area too, going out on Sunday mornings to maintain them. In September 2023, the garden put in a standpipe to provide water for the garden, though it uses collected rain water as much as possible. In 2019 the garden was awarded the accolade ‘Outstanding’ by the RHS in the community garden category.

The garden’s opening times are currently: Fridays: 10 to 3pm, Saturdays: 10 to 3pm and Sundays: 10 to 12 noon. These are currently under review and any changes will be announced on the garden’s website – see below.

The UP Garden

This was created from an abandoned laundry yard in Eric Close. The yard is part of a Council estate, managed by Swan Housing Association, in the very north of Forest Gate, just a few yards from the borough boundary with Waltham Forest. The yard had become an eyesore, overgrown and with evidence of drug users. It was crying out for a new purpose. With many eager to make it happen.

As the land is owned by the Council, they agreed to start the transformation. In December 2021, the Council did an initial clearance, including fencing off an area of Japanese knotweed. Then residents took over, with much of the funding for this coming from GLA, with substantial amounts from the Council and Swan. The local community donated furniture and materials, as well as muscle. With much volunteer effort and various donations, raised beds were built and painted, along with sheds for tools and other items. Seating and tables for picnics, art and just sitting around and gossiping, were put in, as well as an undercover space.