Community garden given fresh boost after break-in

Children and churches have helped a West London community garden spring back into life after the former Southall wasteland was attacked by raiders.
 
Conservation charity A Rocha UK suffered more than £1,000 worth of loss and damage after thieves broke into their Wolf Fields site in Norwood Green, just before the Easter holiday season. But the group has since held children’s activities and a sunrise service there.
 
Nearly 50 people from five local churches attended the Easter Sunday sunrise service – despite an early 5am start in the dark and the rain. Three A Rocha UK volunteers helped manage the event, which was led by Rev Jeff Pyne from St Mary’s Church. Worship was led by Rev Dawn Jewson from St George’s Church.
 
On a separate occasion, more than 20 five to 11-year-olds descended on the three-acre park for one of A Rocha UK’s Easter Specials. They learned of plans for developing Wolf Fields – while also enjoying seasonal games and crafts led by Education Officer David Melville and his team.
 
Such popular, positive events were in stark contrast to the shock experienced by A Rocha UK workers who had found wrenched padlocks and valuable items missing from Wolf Fields on St Patrick’s Day. But instead of condemning those who took essential equipment, they’ve been encouraging thieves to come forward and help.
 
The theft had been discovered by Communities Officer Kailean Khongsai (right) when he turned up for his shift that morning. "I went to check the site – and found padlocks broken," he said. "There must’ve been at least two or three people involved, because some items were big and heavy. The intruders also trampled on the allotment."
 
While the rest of London had been preparing to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, thieves hauled away a heavy-duty lawn mower, strimmer and four new pairs of safety boots. Formerly used for dumping rubbish, drug-related activities and alcohol abuse, the land is being turned into a community garden by A Rocha UK with local volunteers.
 
Reflecting on that challenging time just before the holiday period, Conservation Director Andy Lester said the charity had been ‘deeply saddened’ by the raid. "A small group of people decided to take equipment which is there for the benefit of everyone," he said.
 
"However, we recognise we’re working at the heart of a community that’s burdened by many challenges. As a Christian charity, we‘d like to reach out to those who’ve stolen from and vandalised the site – and offer both forgiveness and the opportunity to work with us to make this a better place."
 
Wolf Fields’ transformation had previously been boosted with new footpaths and information boards. Work will eventually turn the site into a multi-purpose wildlife area with an orchard, sensory garden, organic food growing, bee keeping, wildflower meadow, small wooded area, new paths and programme of events.
 
Photos: Top: children enjoying holiday fun at Wolf Fields (Photo: Harpreet Castleton)
Below: Communities Officer Kailean Khongsai checking the new locks at Wolf Fields (Photo: Becky Vickers)


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