Thursday, December 03, 2009

The new beginning

From 1st December 2009 the Kitchen Garden project will no longer be run by the Chiswick House Kitchen Garden group. The Trust which oversees the park, the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, will be running the walled gardens as part of the overall activities. For any further information, please see

We would like to thank all of you who were involved with the project, who came to work, to help, provided plants or equipment or donations, or simply came to visit the Kitchen Garden. We had a lot of fun.

The Kitchen Garden team

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Message from the Chairman

Together, we Kitchen Gardeners created a small piece of paradise out of what had formerly been wasteland. Together we brought to many young children - and adults too - what they told us were happy "golden" experiences that they would not otherwise have enjoyed.

In creating our little paradise we have sometimes appeared to be difficult, occasionally strident. I believe that our capacity for not taking "no" for an answer was one of the important early ingredients of our successful programme.

But times and circumstances move on. Today, the renovation of the park is well under way, the walled gardens appear to be pretty much "done". They are appreciated for the wonderful spaces that they are in a way that was simply not the case four years ago.

Our business plan foresaw our handing over the project to the Trust over a period of three years. Before that, we looked forward very much to resuming our activities, rebuilding what we had before and taking it to yet a new level.

The Trust expressed its support for what we planned and we entered into
detailed negotiation as to how we could continue and integrate into the newly invigorated life of the park as a whole. Those negotiations, entered into earnestly and in good faith on both sides, ultimately resulted in a proposal that after considerable reflection and discussion did not provide us with the minimum necessary basis for continued operation of the project, under our management.

While we are very disappointed at that outcome, we take the view that it is the project that is important, rather than our management of it. And we very much want to see continue what we have started.

So we were pleased that following further discussion with the Trust, it has agreed that it makes sense for the proposed hand-over after three years to be brought forward. We have agreed that with effect from 1 Dec the project will be continued under the Trust's management. The Trust has committed to continuing broadly the kind of programme we had envisaged, in the wider context of the activities of the whole park.

There are a number of stories in circulation as to why we felt that the terms on offer could not be made to work for us. We have agreed with the Trust that although our negotiations were and are confidential, it makes sense for us to clarify those reasons, correct any misapprehensions and explain how it is that the Trust's management of the project alleviates the problems we foresaw with our operating it under the terms on offer.

It would make no sense for us to fail to support, or worse to be seen to undermine the Trust in its efforts to execute what I think is a very challenging plan, and made more challenging still by the inclusion of our activities under its umbrella. Instead, for the sake of our belief in what we set out to achieve, and wish to continue, we intend to give the Trust the maximum possible support and cooperation in the hand-over of operation of our project.

Regrets? I have a few. I regret that some people might think that we want to do anything other than ensure the successful continuation of our project. I would like it to be known that the Trust can rely on our support in the handover and beyond. I would like us to be remembered for the positive things we have achieved, and I would very much regret were we remembered as a difficult-to-deal-with group that could not move with the changing times and the evolving big picture.

We will be putting what we have agreed with the Trust to members of the KG at a general meeting to be held in the week of Nov 2. Members will receive notification of the details of the meeting shortly. I hope that our members will agree that this is the best route forward for our project.

I also hope that our volunteers will feel that they wish to support the Trust in its operation of the programme and that this candid explanation of the situation, as I see it, will make them feel that they wish to continue to engage with the enthusiasm and gusto that made the project what it is today.

Jo Rabin
5 Oct 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Mural

The fabulous mural, shown here with Sue Dance its creator, was launched at the Dog Show in late September, and remains on display at the House during October 2009.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Family Kitchen Garden

by Karen Liebreich, Jutta Wagner and Annette Wendland
Price: £16.99
Publication date: 14th May 2009

“Five years ago one of us climbed over a wall and discovered a secret garden, overgrown and neglected for decades . . . it was a jungle of bindweed and bramble, lying just fifty metres from one of the busiest main roads linking central London to its principal airport, a long-forgotten corner of the grounds of Chiswick House.” From the introduction

Five years ago Karen Liebreich, Jutta Wagner, Annette Wendland and others began to restore this secret garden – a neglected seventeenth-century kitchen garden - at Chiswick House in west London, bringing in hundreds of local schoolchildren to work and learn and garden and eat. This book is the fruit of that experience. With the emphasis on what will be fun to grow and suitable for a family, it provides clear instructions on growing vegetables, fruit, herbs and cutting flowers, and month-by-month advice on what to do when as well passing on child-relevant tips on how to garden with children so that both the adult and the child enjoy it! There are recipes using homegrown fruit and veg that kids (as well as adults) will want to make and eat - from oriental summer rolls and homemade ketchup to parsnip crisps and fruit ice lollies - and projects that are accessible to the whole family, such as building a ladybird nesting house and weaving a willow wigwam for climbing plants.

Buy it from Amazon through the icon at the bottom left of our home page and the Kitchen Garden project will get 5%.

Book launch at Wholefoods Supermarket, Kensington High Street, London W8 5SE. For further information please call Wholefoods on 020 7368 4500

Monday 11th May, 5pm - Karen, Jutta & Annette will be getting the kids to plant seeds, painting plant labels and making some simple food at the Kids Club. NB: the Kids Club must be pre-booked. For further information and to book a space, please call Wholefoods on 020 7368 4500 or visit their Q Bar instore on the Ground Floor.

Saturday 16th May, 10am – Another opportunity to join with Karen, Jutta & Annette and do some more planting seeds, painting plant labels and making some simple food at the Kids Club as above. Again places must be booked.

Saturday 16th May, 12-3pm - A chance to meet the authors informally on the ground floor of Wholefoods. Just turn up, taste one of their delicious recipes, get lots of information on how to get going on growing your own fruit and veg and get your book signed.

On Saturday 23rd May, 11am Annette and Jutta will be at Waterstones in Chiswick. Come and help them plant some seeds and get some great ideas of what you might enjoying growing with your children in your garden. Waterstones, 220-226 Chiswick High Road, London. W4 1PD. Contact: Lara Tel: 8995 3559. for further information. Free

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Exhibition of art from the Kitchen Garden

1. Kitchen Garden art at the London International Gallery of Children's Art
From now until 14th June we are very excited to announce that artworks created by the children of Chiswick are on display at this prestigious gallery in Waterlow Park in Highgate. The whole show is made up of artwork from the Kitchen Garden. Congratulations to all the children whose work has been selected for display.

The arts programme is run by the wonderful Sue Dance and is an integral part of our schools’ sessions. The children are encouraged to use a variety of art materials (including oil pastels, mosaic, clay and collage) and to observe form, texture and colour to creatively express their experiences at the Gardens. In particular, they focus on reflecting how the changes of seasons are conveyed through the colours, shapes and patterns of plants.

The result is a vibrant and stunning exhibition and you are strongly recommended to visit. The gallery is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Check the gallery website for more details on The image above, tulip and hyacinth, is by year 1 at Falcons School.

2. Waitrose charity of the month
Of course we would mainly encourage you to grow your own veg, but for anything else you need this month, you may be popping in to Waitrose on Chiswick High Road. Many thanks to whoever nominated us, and please make sure you get your green token and pop it into our case. At the end of the month the tokens are weighed and we get a donation in proportion to the number of tokens.

3. The Family Kitchen Garden book
Three of us Kitchen Gardeners have written The Family Kitchen Garden, published this May. You can pre-order through this website (see icon on the home page, bottom left) thereby giving a percentage to the Kitchen Garden project. The order fulfilment is carried out by Amazon.

Progress in the Kitchen Garden

With the trees all gone from the northern and southern walled gardens (apart from an oak and a mulberry), the path is edging its way round the perimeter and down the central axis. The builders have tiptoed their way past the herbal maze – amazing that one can tiptoe with a digger, but they are managing it (thank you UPM Tilhill). One quarter of the southern garden (an ex-forested bit) has been rolled flat and grass seed sown. In the northern garden the topsoil has been stripped off and a layer of soil substitute with plastic filaments has been laid. We hope this will turn into an orchard once the fruit tree saplings are planted, though it does look rather bare and sterile at the moment. Meanwhile we are still gardening in twos, passing the baton (ie. the safety helmets and hi-viz jackets) at the entrance so there are never more than two of us in the garden at once, which would constitute a safety hazard. You’ll have to take our word for it this year, but the cutting bed tulips look good… Three weeks ago we were finally allowed back into the greenhouse, after an absence of nearly a year, and madly sowed this year’s seed to catch up… However, some helpful souls came round and smashed the glass last weekend, so we are once more evicted on health and safety grounds. Good thing the park is protected with fencing and security guards. Anyone with spare greenhouse space, and the time to look after seedlings for us until they go out, please let us know.

Monday, March 30, 2009

View from above

Well, this is the view over the walled gardens from the top of the conservatory. The ropy old polytunnel finally went last week. The central path is beginning to take shape; the orange netting protects the bit we are still allowed to garden. The trees you can just see in the distance are on the other side of the A4. The one by the right-hand wall was left by mistake and will be going soon. The work in the conservatory itself looks grand with all the old ironwork removed, fixed and now being replaced. All the rotting timbers beneath are being immaculately restored.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kitchen Garden on CBeebies Friday 20th March

Last year Jelly the frog, a big star from CBeebies, came to help some of the kids planting peas and potatoes in the Kitchen Garden. Now the Green Balloon club will be airing the episode, so set your videos (or whatever hi-tec recording thing you have…) for CBeebies, 4pm on Friday 20th March, repeated on Sunday at 9am and 3pm. It was a very long day’s filming for the brilliant kids, and will doubtless make a fabulous two minutes’ of great kids’ TV.