9 October 2016

Hawkwood organic nursery

I visited Hawkwood Nursery at the end of September, on one of their regular open days. It's on the edge of Epping Forest and the planting fields are separated by trees so that it seems like a series of forest clearings. The most idyllic part is the vinyard, where small sour green and black grapes grow alongside the mature oak trees and crab apples. The electric fence is to keep deer out - there's a proper fence separating the site from the forest.

The nursery is run by OrganicLea, which operates as a workers cooperative. It exists to grow organic food and has strong ties to the Hornbeam organic cafe in Hoe Street, as well as selling food all around this side of London - you can buy their salad leaves at Spar in the village. It's a bit like a huge allotment garden, a little ramshackle, with plants going to seed and weeds taking over in places, as well as neat rows of healthy crops and young trees bearing surprisingly abundant fruit.

A lot of the food production happens in one gigantic glasshouse, row after row of planting beds all under the same roof. Strings hanging from the roof are for the plants to climb up. These are not in use so they're coiled up neatly out of the way. Ripe tomatoes and pickling cucumbers are the main crop at the moment, and a couple of rows of the glasshouse are devoted to a variety of strange elongated squashes.

I was expecting to be able to buy food but in fact their sales stalls were nearly all young plants. An apple press was in action producing gallons of fresh apple juice, not for sale but as a facility for people bringing their own apples. There's also a community wine production scheme - children were enjoying taking turns on the grape crushing device. Not somewhere to visit for grocery shopping, but a beautiful and inspiring place to think about growing your own food, or at least find out where to get hold of their fresh produce.

OrganicLea's Hawkwood Nursery is at the end of Hawkwood Crescent in Chingford. They have an open day the last Sunday of each month.