It was definitely one of our most challenging sites, being over 120m long and only 8m wide. We had to preserve line of sight from start to finish, and were overshadowed by tall buildings and sycamores. It originally looked like this:
We relied on our friends at Action Now to build the raised beds, which are made from Thermowood, an innovative timber which does not use chemicals to preserve it, but is instead cooked to a high temperature. This greatly reduces weathering and fungal invasion, providing similar protection to traditional preservatives, without the chemicals.
We built a stud-work frame and lined it with flexible, waterproof bamboo-barrier, normally designed to resist the invasive roots of bamboo. Here, we needed to ensure that no water or roots would invade the fabric of the building, and to force the water runoff into the central channel of the alleyway. We also use Terram’s Turfprotecta, to provide structure and envelope the root barrier membrane. As ever, our timber came from Forestrall, who provided us with more than 1.5km of Thermowood!
The soil came in our biggest order to date – over 80 tons from our compost-heroes Bourne Amenity. They custom blended a mix of 50% compost and 50% topsoil for the main fill, and we top dressed the whole area with over 10 cubic metres of their sustainably-sourced wood chip.
We used over 1000 plants to fill the 80 square metres of beds, most of which were shade tolerant, and all of which had to cope with the extreme winds funnelled into the alleyway. The mature specimens of bamboo (Phyllostachys & Fargesia), palm (Trachycarpus), loquat (Eriobotrya), cypress (Cupressus), Paulownia, Catalpa, Tetrapanax and tree ferns all the way from Tasmania (Dicksonia) came from our stalwart nursery at the Palm Centre in Ham. And we filled the gaps between those with 9cm pots from Gedney, whose bulbs and herbaceous perennials are always the best value and grow up into vibrant adults!
Now there are over 1,000 people who pass through this enriched space every day, on their way to work, school and good times, who have the chance to brush the foliage & admire the flowers instead of just a hard concrete alley.