calthorpe community garden in Camden

Calthorpe Community Garden: Discover this Living Lab

Since 1984, this unlikely site just off Grays Inn Road has been a local haven for the people of Camden

When I arrive at the Calthorpe Community Gardens, I’m surprised by how many different people are using the space. Parents with children in the play area, kids on the football pitch, teenagers in trackies lounging amongst the roses, elderly women strolling over the bridge: it’s a true portrait of Camden at its best.

The project began nearly 40 years ago when Camden Council acquired some land that was going to be used for office blocks. After three years of campaigning by locals, Camden allocated the money to develop the site for gardens and play spaces for King’s Cross residents. 

Since 1984, Calthorpe has been a haven for the local community. At the moment the focus is on Sport, Education, Environment and Diversity (SEED), with activities like Walking Football for over 60s, food education projects, art, cooking and growing workshops and so on.

Community garden as a Living Lab

Calthorpe describes itself as a Living Lab, housing an anaerobic digester, which breaks down food scraps to produce digestate, which can be used as fertiliser, and a natural gas that can be burned to create energy, resulting in a closed loop system. There are also five different types of composting going on here, Zoe, the Business Development Officer, tells me. “I didn’t even know there were five!”, she laughs, as we walk past a sign that reads Horticultural Show Sample of Compost 3rd Prize.


view of Calthorpe Community Garden

“Last week I was snacking on some lettuce that we’re growing and at the bottom of the bag I discovered half a slug!”, Zoe grimaces. Slugs aren’t usually on the menu at Calthorpe, but the garden does have its own café which is reopening soon.

Comunity-driven food bank

There’s also a food bank and Zoe tells me that many of its users have since become part of the community as volunteers. “There’s a group of elderly South Americans who come here to help with the foodbank and garden or do some weaving and sewing. You can see how much of a good time they’re having cooking lunch together.”

Recently, Afghan refugees living in local hotels have also been using the kitchen to cook during Ramadan. “There’s a huge range of people in South Camden and we want everyone to feel like they can treat this space like they would their own garden.”

You can hear birds tweeting, a rarity in this part of London, and in some directions, you can’t see any buildings because of the trees. “Places like this are so important. Our current Chair, Anu Singh, used this space with her kids for years and now she’s Chair. So you can see how much people appreciate it.”

If you enjoyed this article, check out Camdenist for more.


Find this article in print: ‘Camdenist Presents: GROW’, find copies across the borough and Central London


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