28 Aug 2019

Return to The Skip Garden

I, We and The Planet.

Those five powerful words underpin the work of Global Generation, the charity bringing youth, community and enterprise together in London. Why am I writing about this? Well, with everything that's happening in the world today, those words seem particularly relevant - and I visited their flagship Skip Garden in Kings Cross last week.

I make an annual pilgrimage to the Skip Garden - it's a short walk from where I have my car MOT done and the kitchen café serves a fine coffee and freshly-made food. But it's all about to change, again.

Yellow folding chair next to wooden planter built into the side of a skip with pottery sculpture
A chair for sitting under the Orchard skip apple trees

I can't remember when I first heard about abandoned skips being used to grow food but I can remember the first time I visited the site. It wasn't open to the public but I could see interesting things happening and talked my way in.

It was in 2012, the old railway sheds of Kings Cross could still be seen alongside cranes and construction work and, at the edge of it all, a concrete yard containing six skips, a large polytunnel and a shed was fenced off for young people and local schools to come together to learn about food growing, carpentry and enterprise.  Those were a few of the skills on offer but the underlying education was about environment, sustainability and community.

The site didn't look much then - more scrapyard than visitor attraction - but its inception in 2009 was at the beginning of the trend for food growing in urban spaces (and our own urban veg patch). I came away full of ideas, so inspired by what could be grown in small spaces and the clever use of scrap building materials.

Looking down onto the first Skip Garden in Kings Cross, view of polytunnels
Skip Garden circa 2012

Looking down on Skip Garden in Kings Cross 2015 next to construction work
Skip Garden circa 2015

Since the first well-intentioned beginnings in 2009, the garden has been picked up and relocated four times whenever the land was needed for redevelopment.  By 2015 the garden was on its present site with the glass lighthouse built from reclaimed windows by architecture students, plus a chicken coop, an earth bag cool store, bug hotels, a rammed earth polytunnel and, of course, the iconic skips stuffed with healthy crops.  At that time, the garden overlooked a man-made natural swimming pond surrounded by meadow planting; by 2017 the pool had gone, swallowed by buildings - a symbol of the rapid change in the area.

So why the history lesson? Well, the Skip Garden will be no more after the end of September. Once again, Kings Cross developers need the land. There will be a Fire Feast at the end of the month - pizza cooked in the clay oven, salad from the garden, wine, music and friends - and then the gates will close and the site dismantled.

And this time it really is goodbye. I'm told that a few of the skips will be moved to Global Generation's Story Garden* which opened in July on a site behind the British Library.  I don't know what will happen to the rest of the garden (benches, ceramics, planters, etc) but I doubt it will be wastefully discarded.

Skip Garden courtyard with deck chairs and table. Reclaimed window glass house in the background
Such a nice place to stop for a coffee!
I've been so inspired by the Skip Garden over the years - it's clever upcycling, craft workshops, and creativity have never failed to excite.  I find so much beauty in small details there and always take my camera so I hope that the Story Garden will be equally inspirational.  Story telling is such an age-old tradition that I have high hopes for that new garden!

But before I bid a very fond farewell to the Skip Garden, my next post will be taking a look at some of the clever ideas that I've noticed there over my many visits.  Will you join me and my bright ideas?

More on this link about Global Generation and their work and gardens.

* The Story Garden is a short-term collaboration between the British Library, Stanhope developments and Global Generation to create a link with the local Somers Town community and the general public; the garden should be on site at least until the end of 2020.


  1. How sad that such a wonderful project is coming to an end!xxx

    1. I always find change a bit sad, Dina, but there's been so much good work that the project is bound to carry on under the guise of the Story Garden. My sadness is that we can't have both! And that the beautiful glass house and polytunnel will be given over to ... what? A block of flats, more offices, shops? I suppose that's London for you! xx

  2. It's a shame that it's coming to an end. xx

    1. I have to agree. But the ideals will live on in The Story Garden, even if that garden is more focussed on the very local community, and people will still benefit. The new garden is behind The British Library so perhaps people who have dual interests of books and gardening (like yourself!) might pop in for a visit. xx


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