Words by Jessica Peace
We heard about about this little Hackney haven a while back during our natter with National Park City man Dan Raven-Ellison. Well, we got down there last weekend and it’s a good job, you’ve only got a week or so left to trample through this urban plant wonderland before it closes its gates for a winter sleep.
‘Phytotherapy’, in layman's is just the use of plant extracts for medicinal use, especially ones you don’t see on your dinner plate - think ‘weeds’. The message you get at the garden is that you don’t have to blow your wallet at posh shops for ‘super foods’, they’re in your backyard.
Phytology, we salute you for this! Fresh tea is harvested every Saturday morning and brewed for anyone that fancies a mug. We knocked back lemon balm, marshmallow, marjoram and ground ivy.
The small woodland has meadows, ponds, communal areas, and a writer’s shed all sitting beneath branches and tendrils and on a carpet of medicinal leafy stuff, encouraging punters to let their gardens and pots go wild - and reap the benefits of it.
Phytology are doing their bit for the bats of Bethnal Green, artist and Phytology man Michael Smythe is leading the project that gives necessary sanctuary and protection to these night flying beauties. You’ll find a tall (batman like) tower constructed by artist DJ Simpson, and a series of bat boxes built by artist Lucy McLauchlan.
Providing homes for the bats has meant that in turn the bats have provided a home for Phytology - you can’t tarmac over a protected species. Nature gives back!
PATRON SAINT OF LOST CAUSES
This small reserve nestled between housing estates at the back of Bethnal Green Road is built on a bombsite - literally. St Jude’s church - the patron saint of lost causes, was smashed to pieces in WW2, but the nature reserve that has sprouted up here has been nothing but resilient.
Phytology are the most recent guardians of this site, bringing in the community, bringing in artists and bringing and sustaining life on top of what was a pile of rubble and one of the poorest soils in London - fact. Nature takes the lead here, some of the sycamores and the trees of heaven have been hangin’ out here since St Judes, and artists are invited to respond to the reserve - even the compost loo you’ll be able to squat over next summer started as an old fox burrow. It’s practically Ferngully mate.
ART AND STUFF
Phytology is as much an art hub as it is nature, with artists and writers in residence, the weekly billboard (so good), campfire club gigs with ‘Nest Collective’ and all sorts of rad workshops - bit of outdoor yoga too.
LET ME IN
The garden is open Saturdays 11am – 5pm until 8th September
Checkout the EVENTS (foraging this Saturday!!!)
GET ME THERE
Around the corner from Bethnal Green Tube (and from our gaff on Hackney Road)
...Check out their ‘GOOD’, body and face balm. It’s made from stuff in this Tower Hamlets patch: Chamomile, Plantain, Yarrow and Marshmallow. AND it’s palm oil and chemical free. BIG FANS.