On Sunday I ran down to Columbia Road’s famous flower market, but on the way home I went a different way. I have a very, very short attention span, and if I don’t switch routes up I get bored and start focusing on my thighs, which wobble violently with every flat-footed slap of the pavement. This is not only disastrous for one’s self-esteem, but also means that instead of looking straight ahead I’m staring down at the vast, blotchy jellies God gave me to walk with. And that means I am about 1000% more likely to trip over something, including (but not limited to) small dogs, toddlers, prams, kerbs and abandoned furniture.
So I took a different route and was running up towards Dalston when my eye was suddenly caught by an ENORMOUS mural I’d never seen before, a mysterious little entrance to what looked like a verdant oasis deep within. As a child I’d loved The Secret Garden – or, at least, until Miss Lawrence butchered it in Year 4 – and I couldn’t believe I’d never noticed this not-so-secret doorway before.
With nothing planned for the immediate future except some more professional-level thigh-jiggling, I went inside. It was just opening up, and a few serene looking volunteers were gliding around tending plants and carrying boxes of gardening paraphernalia. Considering we were in the heart of Dalston, which can be – it must be said – a bit of a dive, it was incredibly calming. Here was a proper garden, with higgledy-piggledy vegetable patches and creepers held up with string. There were bits of earth where busy feet had worn away the grass. It was a far cry from the fountains and manicured lawns of the Royal Parks out west, and much lovelier for it.
Turns out (as I discovered from my phone while sipping an ice-cold Coke) that the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden is a sort of community project run by the kind of community-minded people the world, frankly, needs more of. It puts on regular acoustic nights around its many wood-burning stoves, al fresco pizza evenings, movie screenings and gardening programmes, all run by local volunteers who turn up on the reg to plant and prune and do other green-fingered things.
The Garden is a non-profit organisation that exists to benefit the local community, so it also holds a lot of children’s workshops and collaborates with organisations such as the Hackney Circle (a club for older folks) to put on special events.
I’m gutted I’ve only discovered the Garden now, in October, because it really would have been a marvellous place to spend a summer’s afternoon. They allow picnics and packed lunches, and there is an on-site café that sells homemade cakes and juices too. (Cash only, so come prepared!) The café is their main source of income, so they do ask you don’t bring alcoholic drinks in but instead purchase some of their locally brewed beers and ciders.
One of the most beautiful parts of the garden though is the big wooden pavilion they use for all their workshops, a sort of bright, open-fronted greenhouse with squashy sofas, paper lanterns and pots of greenery crammed on to every available surface.
Now that it’s getting colder, the Garden might not be the best place to hang out for hours at a time, but they do still hold lots of events over the winter, most of them free. There seems to be a lot during school holidays too, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’ve got kids. You can see the full list of upcoming events and sign up to their newsletter on their website.
The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden can be found just a couple of minutes away from the Overground station, at 13 Dalston Lane, E8 3DF. Look for the ginormous mural, you can’t miss it.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.