Adding New Colour to an Oasis

7:45 pm

First published in The Conservation Volunteers Blog March 20, 2013
Our new conservation project is in a small site next to the outdoor swimming pool of the ‘Oasis Sports Centre’ in Holborn.
The idea seems straightforward – we are here to create a space for growing food that has the potential to involve people from the surrounding community in the future.
 Our project leader, Chris, promises us fantastic things – we will be building a mosaic of raised beds, compost bins, pergolas and a lot more, he tells us.
 The thought of constructing romantic seats with creepers all around, places images of spring poetry in my mind but what strikes me the most about our site is its colour.
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 There are some colours here; stony grey buildings,  muddy orange walls, sparkling blue swimming- pool. But all this small, suffocating, concrete rectangle really seems to desire is a splash of fresh green.
 In the pool next to us, people enjoy a swimming session outdoors on a Saturday morning.   With our bright coloured wind cheaters, mud caked boots, and fluorescent green gloves, we don’t quite fit in this leisure haven.
But we have something in common with our swimming friends. It’s a Saturday morning in winter-spring. They are out in the cold and so are we.  In a way it feels like two adjacent playgrounds with two teams practicing their respective sport on their respective grounds.
The people in the blue pool, swim and the people in the grey concrete rectangle, build wooden boxes.
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We start by making raised beds. We line the small planters, fix the decking, work on compost bins and start prepping the walls for painting. We decide we don’t really like the dull orange. No, we prefer magnolia instead. (Choosing colours can be a complicated affair. In the brief discussion we had as a group about what colour the wall should be, I think ten variations of white were mentioned, some of which I didn’t know existed.)
After a few Saturdays, we started working on the spring-poetry-seat i.e the pergola. I have seen such structures in large public gardens before but never imagined that one day, I would be assisting in creating one.
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After much measuring, sawing and drilling, the pergola is finished. It looks like it could have been made for royalty. We all take turns exploring it, climbing up on it, looking away into the distance and imagining it in our private gardens one warm summer with birds chirping, sipping some Pimms, writing some poetry etc etc.
That’s far away, we still have a lot more to do.
But that’s alright. We are impatient. We can’t wait to inject this concrete oasis with some green.

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