It’s long been my ambition to make a record of all the ‘weeds’ growing along Mare St. I say ‘weeds’ but really I want to rehabilitate them and rename them as wild plants. Finally we got round to it. We roped Annie Chipchase, a local urban ecologist, in to lead a group of us to look at, identify and draw what we found. We started at a short stretch of unprepossessing road round the corner from the garden: Weston Walk. It’s more of an alley — often strewn with hair from the salon that backs onto it, as well as chicken bones from the chicken shop, dumped rubbish bags and occasionally furniture. I’d noticed, though, that a leaking pipe had provided an environment for moss to grow so I thought it would be a good place to begin our hunt. In this short road we found 23 varieties of plants growing in the cracks and up the walls. We were so absorbed, we hardly had time to explore or record what was growing on Mare St. We wondered at the resilience of these plants growing in the most hostile environment – and will never look at the cracks in the pavement in the same way again.
I’m a bit anxious about our attempt to grow a garment. There is no lack of interest or enthusiasm but there is a lack of good quality flax. It’s been growing OK but there are many hazards involved in raising plants in public spaces – dogs, foxes, people, weather and weeds. Even though the flax grows quickly, unless someone is on hand to look after it, it can get swallowed up by (in a recent case) bindweed. This weakens and stunts the plant and I’m kicking myself for not checking the plots and making sure they were weeded. Last weekend I went to Daubeney Fields to pull up the crop there. Once again, it was a bright day in a beautiful spot by the river. It took us about an hour to pull the crop up, but it was a bit thin. Other harvests (notably at Saint Elizabeth’s School in Bethnal Green) have been great, so I can hope that our growers out there have been more careful nurturers than me. I have learnt my lesson.
The good news is that, via Twitter and a recent dye workshop, we have recruited some spinners – both experienced and novice. We have also been offered a spinning wheel by a very kind donor so we’ll just have to do it again next year.