A green-fingered community in North West London, led by a Cavan construction worker, are celebrating their latest prestigious award. Bernie Fitzpatrick and his neighbours at Campbell Gordon Way in Dollis Hill have been gardening together to make their housing estate more pleasing to the eye, as well as forging relationships with their neighbours.
Bernie started gardening just six years ago once he took it up after the recession, when his job on the Olympics site finished. Always active, Bernie ‘didn’t know what to do with himself ’ and after running out of things to do around the house began making his own garden his pride and joy.
After getting compliments from his neighbours he started to help them emulate his own green patch, which set the wheels in motion for what has become a huge community effort.
Now Bernie is joined by a team of 30+ neighbour volunteers, adults and children alike, and they have won a host of horticultural prizes since then. The prestigious London in Bloom award celebrates the efforts of those improving their local environment, but also considers the community benefits from a human perspective. In 2014 they were awarded the top prize of five stars for the first time, a feat which they repeated last year, and now again for the third year in a row for 2016.
“We are dead chuffed. We have to improve year on year because the judges are very strict and if you don’t get the points you don’t get the stars,” he says. “One of the criteria for a 5-star is you have to inspire, and we have. Internationally as well as locally.”
Due to the extremely diverse multi-cultural population at Campbell Gordon Way, residents have had family visiting them from places as far-flung as Mumbai, Chile and Egypt and all have gone back to replicate the gardening when they return home.
And locally, the residents at Chartwell Court off of Brook Road, just around the corner from Bernie have started their own gardening project while the Torah Temimah Jewish primary school has got their pupils working on on-site gardening patches and have asked Bernie to help. “They’ve all seen what can be achieved and decided to start their own projects,” says Bernie.
And this year a new award was introduced by the London in Bloom judges, called the ‘Our Community’ and the residents at Campbell Gordon Way were only one of six communities to receive the accolade, and we got the gold out of the four scoring tiers. But what’s next for them?
“We’re just dead chuffed. I don’t know, I suppose we want to flower the whole world! Of course we want to build on our top two London awards.
“Maybe try and get the maximum points in the whole of London would be the next aim. We got 91 this year so that’s something to work on.
“And we feature in a new book too which is exciting. It’s the London Garden Book A-Z by Abigail Willis. It’s just great to be recognised.”
The residents are celebrating with an unveiling of a plaque this Saturday, which has all 12 of their Brent borough and London awards from over the years being placed in Bernie’s own garden. London in Bloom CEO Peter Holman will unveil it.