Kids in London - Yurts, bees and outside eating at The Skip Garden in King’s Cross

KimT's London for Kids Blog

When my kids were little I encouraged them into gardening activities with promises of “slow magic”. But at The Skip Garden it really is an adventure. There’s a sizeable yurt (Mongolian tent) for when it’s raining and there are seats and a stove inside if it gets cold. There’s a big class room where you can draw or make things (wooden toys feature at the moment) and soon there’ll be a baby corner here for smaller visitors. There’s a tiny summer house for more drawing.

And all around are skips containing herbs, vegetables and flowers. Each plant is labelled with its uses and medicinal properties. One skip contains a worm factory for recycling waste into compost. Another has a polythene covering (a bit like a greenhouse) to protect plants from the cold and another has a wire frame where fruits grow.

Each skip has steps up and over the edge so you get inside to tend the plants. They operate a crop rotation as well – sustainability is important here. There’s a covered tunnel where seeds grow into plants. And a couple of hives containing some very busy bees. There’s another covered area where you can sit and eat – or watch your pizza cook in one of the open ovens or gaze into the fire pit.

The Cafe

The Skip Garden is just one project from Global Generation which was founded in 2004 to inspire and empower young people to develop a living relationship with the natural world and create positive environmental and social change in their communities. I met local girl Gabrielle – now studying for her A levels – who had submitted an idea to a competition run by City solicitors Herbert Smith. She didn’t win but over the past few years has been able to realise her dream of creating a café here using produce from the skips.

At the front of the Skip Garden is a neat hatchway through to the kitchens from which they serve a variety of healthy vegetarian foods to local people and workers who can sit on one of the many tables positioned on a fine gravel base which contains more tubs of growing produce. There are dioramas in the wall provided by students at Central Saint Martins.

But I was eating inside the Skip Garden – there are a number of special events coming up to celebrate its 10 year anniversary including volunteer twilight gardening, skip garden feasts and story evenings.

I enjoyed a glass of home-made elderflower cordial which contained an ice cube that released a flower as it melted. Very pretty. The Cavolo Nero and goat’s cheese frittata was wonderful and so were the chard and feta pastries. My colleagues swooned over a carrot dip and beetroot salad and the date soda bread was really tasty. But my favourite was the lemon herb polenta cake with cream and stewed rhubarb.

Community and business links

The garden is known as “the garden of a 1,000 hands” as it also provides volunteering, training and work experience opportunities for local schools and young people. So it forges links between adults, kids, the community, education and local businesses. A bike-propelled food cart takes food out to local people. The garden is also available for hire for kids’ parties and corporate events (one nearby design company apparently had its office party here – complete with a cocktail skip!).

The Skip Garden moves around the largest construction site in Europe – and Argent King's Cross Limited Partnership (property developers Argent and Hermes Real Estate on behalf of the BT Pension Scheme) provide both all the materials for the Skip Garden as well as workers to assist.

At the moment it is located just behind Central Saint Martin’s School and is handily adjacent to a fenced sports area and a basketball pitch.

Other nearby children’s attractions

And there’s plenty more close by to amuse small people. There’s a giant bird cage (which lights up in the evening) containing a swing. During the day, King’s Boulevard has a thriving street food market. At Granary Square there are four huge banks of synchronised fountains where you can cool off on a hot day while mum sits with the students and chills out.

There’s a viewing platform where you can look out over all of the big cranes, diggers and building works. There’s an exhibition with a large model of the area within Central Saint Martin’s and tracks embedded in the ground which you can run along just like the trains in the olden days.

There’s a canal with a bridge and waterside paths where you can feed the ducks or admire the brightly coloured canal boats. And by the side of the college there’s a big space with three fixed ping pong tables – take your own bats and balls or ask at the visitor centre.

The Skip Garden is free and open for visitors on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 10am and 4pm. It’s also open the first Saturday of the month but in the summer is open every Saturday. The Café at the front is open every day at lunchtime.

Posted Date
May 17, 2014 in KimT's London for Kids Blog by KimT
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