Golborne features

Going out



Community directory



Community First Funding

Grow Meanwhile!

Take a walk along Golborne Road heading towards Trellick Tower and just after you pass the building, you'll come to an entrance that leads you into an enchanting world. It's a haven of greenery and wildlife such as the heron pictured here. We're speaking, of course, about Meanwhile Gardens, that peaceful sanctuary that runs for just over 300 metres along the edge of the Grand Union Canal.

With a small staff and lots of volunteers, Meanwhile Gardens has thrived for the last four decades years as a wildlife garden and park. And the Gardens also houses a Mind Project, which offers horticultural training to people who have suffered mental ill-health, a play hut and a highly popular skateboard park. There's also what's known as the Factory, a building at the northern end of the Gardens that houses the project’s office and storage as well as the Metronomes Steel Orchestra.

Recent attention has focussed on the Factory with its iconic chimney. The current building was constructed not long after the First World War, with the chimney added in 1927. It's had a chequered past operating as a dairy, a paint manufacturer and even a crisp maker before Meanwhile Gardens came along.

The Factory chimney at Meanwhile Gardens

The Factory is now showing its age and its dilapidation means that the folks who run Meanwhile Gardens would really like to give it a radical refurbishment so that it can meet its full potential. They've been consulting the public about the many possibilities of a renewed building including education, training and an ecology centre. But there is one important hurdle that will have to be crossed before any of that can happen. More of that later.

First let's take a quick look at the fascinating story of how Meanwhile Gardens came about. It all started in 1976 when a visionary artist called Jamie McCullough stood on the Great Western Road bridge across the canal looking across what were then some four acres of rubble-strewn, derelict land. It was derelict because the Victorian terraced housing that had once stood there had been condemned as a slum and demolished.

Meanwhile Gardens: the early days

McCullough had the inspiration that this unused land could be turned into a magnificent green space with all kinds of community activities. First permission to use the land had to be secured from Westminster Council which was responsible for the space at the time, although it now comes under the auspices of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. A temporary lease was secured and the space was named Meanwhile Gardens to reflect its uncertain status. Of course, as we know, 43 years later it's still there.

Today, the 20-year lease from the Royal Borough soon comes to an end but there's a high level of confidence that the council will grant another lease for what has become a community asset of inestimable value. However, there is a separate lease problem. That brings us back to the ambitious ideas for the redevelopment of the Factory to allow it to realise its full potential.

The problem is that while the Gardens themselves are secure for the foreseeable future, the Factory is only on a three-month rolling lease. Although in the past there have been widely opposed plans for commercial redevelopment of the site, Kensington and Chelsea currently have no designs on it. But Meanwhile Gardens cannot develop the site themselves with the insecure lease they have.

As the Chair of the Meanwhile Gardens Community Association, Tony Curzon Price explains, with the short-term lease currently in place, no major funder would be prepared to consider grants to fund development work. But if the Royal Borough would give Meanwhile Gardens a secure, long-term lease, the chances of raising funds to refurbish the factory would be hugely enhanced.

Meanwhile Gardens has presented a vision document to the Borough broadly outlining their plans for the Gardens under an initiative called "Grow Meanwhile." If a secure lease is forthcoming, the next step will be to flesh out the proposals for the Factory with a wide-ranging consultation with local people. So, keep your fingers crossed for a favourable outcome!

If you'd like to get involved in supporting Meanwhile Gardens and in the next round of consultations, visit the grow.meanwhile-gardens website. You'll find full details there about how you can play your part in the next chapter in the Meanwhile Gardens story.