Wolves Lane Centre is home to a group of sustainable food and gardening organisations including Crop Drop, OrganicLea, Wolves Lane Flower Company, Edible London, The Ubele Initiative and the Friends of Wolves Lane.
Wolves Lane was previously a council-run horticultural centre that provided plants for all the parks in Haringey. It was also a garden centre and was used to provide training and work experience for people with learning disabilities and by many local primary schools for educational trips.
Due to government cuts a few years ago, the council’s parks budget was cut by 50% which meant they could no longer afford to run the site. As Wolves Lane is on protected land, they started looking for another organisation to take over. When the opportunity came up, a group of sustainable food and gardening organisations came together and OrganicLea put together a bid on their behalf. They got the lease and took over the site in April 2017. The organisations are currently setting up a legal entity to oversee the management of the site.
We had a chat with Rachel Dring, founder of Crop Drop, about the project, along with Ashley Lydiate from Edible London, Marianne Mogendorff and Camila Klich from Wolves Lane Flower Company and Aisha Khan from The Ubele Initiative.
Rachel explained that the main focus at Wolves Lane is sustainable food growing and living. There are eight glass houses on the 3.5 acre site and most of them are used for growing food. Wolves Lane Flower Company have one of them too. At the front of the site there is a community area and kitchen, palm house and cactus room. Wolves Lane also provide opportunities to the community in food growing and horticulture.
During the first two years on site there has been very limited funding and no paid staff. Rachel explained that there has been a tremendous effort from volunteers who have stepped up to help keep the site running. They have formed the Wolves Lane Crew (led by Loretta Agamemnos, Anne Gray, Pamela Harling and Roger Skipper), which includes the Wolves Lane workshop – a group of volunteers including electricians, carpenters and people with practical DIY skills. They have a workshop on the site and visit once a week to work on various projects. They have to be very resourceful repurposing materials and fixing things up and have recently been making things from left over wooden palettes.
The project is open to everyone in the community. Volunteering sessions take place every Tuesday during the daytime (there are currently around 20 volunteers including adults with learning disabilities) and include horticultural activities, maintenance of the palm house, planting seeds and pruning, as well as general site maintenance. Every Sunday Wolves Lane is open to the public from 12–4pm. You can find plants, seedlings and produce for sale, visit the palm house or grab a cup of tea and slice of cake. Regular community markets are also held at the site.
‘The Wolves Lane crew do all this amazing work on the site. They’ve just done a crowdfunding campaign for solar panels so we can heat the palm house, the cafe area and cactus house through the winter and make the space more accessible for the public. They raised £16,286, which is an incredible acheivement.’ Rachel said.
She told us that eventually they’d like to grow and distribute more food and host workshops and courses in growing and sustainability. Their current focus is to bring in more funding to enable them to run these projects. In the future, they hope to partner with Capel Manor college and Kew Gardens.
Rachel explained how they’d like to see Wolves Lane develop. ‘Alongside the horticultural activity, we’d like to have a cooking programme or projects for kids and workshops, talks and events. We hope to be a place where people can come and learn how to be resourceful and resilient and find out more about how to deal with climate change and resource depletion. It sounds bleak, but we are looking at how we can actually not just survive but thrive by giving people a chance to get back to the earth and learn new skills. We’d also like to provide a space for the community to hold their own events.’
We asked Rachel how Crop Drop had been doing since they appeared in our Food & Drink issue in March 2018. 50% of their produce was grown in London last year – 5% of which was grown at Wolves Lane. ‘It’s been great to have food growing on the same site as us; to be able to support small urban growing operations by giving them a guaranteed market for their produce and to increase our local food offering to our customers. We’ve moved into the barn on site which we’d been renovating and this has increased our capacity for more customers. I’ve never been excited about a barn before! We hosted our first supper club in September which was a great success and we’re hoping to do that annually – a proper farm-to-table feast.’
Ashley from Edible London, who focus on sustainable food, gave us a tour of their glass houses. They donate most of their produce to soup kitchens and homeless shelters and some of it is sold to Crop Drop. They moved into the space in March 2018 and by the end of the year had fed around 5000 people.
Ashley explained that Edible London was originally started by Sunny who has been working in farming for most of his life – following in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather. They work with Food Not Bombs and Feast with Us and Lidl give them surplus food to distribute.
Everything in their space is as sustainable as possible. They use water from the ponds in the palm room and are able to cultivate algae which helps to fertilise the plants. We were lucky enough to sample some fresh rocket – it tastes completely different straight from the plant! It has so much more flavour than when it’s been packed up in plastic and sat on a shelf.
Wolves Lane Flower Company (WLFC), founded by Camila and Marianne, have been on site since April 2017. They are one of the only locations in London to specialise in British-grown chemical free flowers. A flower farm and cutting garden, they supply florists and also put together hand-tied seasonable bouquets from March to November. They offer three month flower subscriptions and wedding flowers, working with what’s in season at the time. When we visited, the very first flowers of the year – Anemones – had just started to bloom.
Before starting WLFC, Camila and Marianne were both producers in the arts and fashion industries. In 2018, WLFC won National British Flower Week. They are also members of Flowers From the Farm – a network supporting British flower growers.
As well as sustainable growers, The Ubele Initiative is also based on site. We had a quick chat with Programme Development Officer Aisha. Ubele are working to create more sustainable BAME (black, Asian and minority-ethnic) communities with a focus on upskilling businesses to build social capital and create opportunities. They run courses in BAME leadership, hosting and action learning. Based on the site since December 2017, their events and classes aim to help with community development, provide a food growing hub and aim to involve more young people at Wolves Lane.
Last year, Ubele ran three community markets at Wolves Lane. They also led the crowdfunding campaign for the solar panels, £7,500 of which was pledged by the Mayor of London.
In the future, Ubele plan to run cookery and art classes for all ages and have been leading discussions on which type of food to produce in the community kitchen that will best reflect the diversity of the area.
You can volunteer at Wolves Lane on a Tuesday (11am–4pm). Drop in or contact Loretta via email: email@example.com
Open to the public every Sunday (12– 4pm).
Wolves Lane Centre, Wolves Lane, N22 5JD
This article first appeared in the Spring issue of Discovering Tottenham which was released in March 2019.