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Cable St Gardeners

April 18, 2020
by the gentle author

Now allotments have become even more valuable, both as havens of solace and sources of fresh greens, Photographer Chris Kelly celebrates the perennial Cable St Gardeners

Jane Sill – I hope to grow more vegetables in future. Other plants have taken over the space, especially poppies. They remind me of my grandfather who was wounded and left for dead of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July, 1916. He survived, was nursed in France and eventually brought back to this country. The Tibetan prayer flags were brought back from Lhasa by a friend.

Ray Newton – There are more younger people in the gardens now and more flowers. I’m still growing mainly vegetables. We’ve had a plague of snails this year because of the wet weather. I’m kept busy with my work as secretary of the History of Wapping Trust, I give talks and guided walks.

Anwara Begum – I’m growing more varieties of vegetables now. I have Bangladeshi pumpkins and different types of Bangladeshi cucumbers. I grow aubergines and chillies in my greenhouse – one of them is too hot even for me.

Manda Helal – Manda’s vines, pretty and delicious.

Marian Monas – I’ve been coming to the gardens for a few months. I live just around the corner. Eventually I hope to have a plot or to share one, but in the meantime I’m growing things in a raised planter. I’m happy with anything that grows really. I’ve got herbs, chard, rhubarb, lavender – and there are visits from a friendly rat.

Ron Osborne – I was one of the original gardeners here back in the seventies and I had a plot for about ten years. Then I started the Shadwell Basin Project for local youth and became involved with other things. I came back when Gina got this plot and we both spend time on it, but it’s basically hers.

Anne Herbert –  Anne moved out of the area in 2005 but always comes back to the gardens on Open Day and keeps in touch with some of the other gardeners. Part of Anne’s former plot is now a well stocked pond.

Ann Ahern – I moved to Tower Hamlets from Notting Hill in 1999 and I’ve had my plot here since 2005. I live just eight minutes away. I’m growing mixed flowers, a few vegetables and I have a pond. My nephew has a seed bed on part of the plot. I’m not so good with seeds.

Monir Uddin – My latest project is to specialise in roses. I’m transplanting them, but they are quite tricky to grow and it takes at least a year for the roots to become established. I’m a photographer and I hope to photograph the roses for cards and calendars.

Helen Keep

Emir Hasham – Emir’s plot houses one of two beehives introduced to the gardens recently.

Hasan Chowdhury – I’m twelve and I’m the youngest gardener here. I first came with our neighbour Angel, who has a cat, and then Jane let me take over these raised planters. I’m growing spinach and potatoes, three different types of pumpkins, peas and coriander. I first learned about gardening from my mum and I like it because gardening is fun.

Suzanne & Mark Lancaster – We started gardening here fairly recently. It’s lovely to come to this beautiful oasis of flowers, birds and greenness in the heart of the East End. We live on busy Brick Lane, so it’s a joy to have somewhere so pretty and tranquil for a break. We hope to grow french beans, rhubarb and herbs in our raised planters.

Devika Jeetun – I’ve been coming to the gardens for a long time. I had to give up my plot when I was caring for my brother and I’m on the waiting list now. I’m growing herbs and vegetables in raised planters – potatoes, tomatoes, runner beans, spring onions and coriander. And I’m looking forward to having a plot again.

Balkis Karim


Annemarie Cooper – I’ve been gardening here for sixteen years and I don’t bother so much with vegetables now, my garden is basically a wildlife area. Those of us who encourage frogs have been using lion poo to keep the cats away from the ponds and it seems to work.

Sheila McQuaid – My gardening is more organised now. I come here at least twice a week. I’m growing different types of vegetables such as squashes and courgettes and I use the greenhouse for tomatoes. But the fruit has not been so good this year, so I’m growing more herbs, especially varieties of mint – I’m into mint tea in quite a big way.

Photographs copyright © Chris Kelly

To learn more about Cable Street Community Gardens or buy copies of the Cable St Gardeners book, contact Jane Sill or visit

You may like to see the earlier series of Chris Kelly’s Cable St Gardeners

or take a look at these other pictures by Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly’s Columbia School Portraits 1996

Chris Kelly & Dan Jones in the Playground

10 Responses leave one →
  1. April 18, 2020

    Glad to see folks are getting out to their allotments. Makes me feel hope in these dark days. Stay healthy and safe G.A. and everyone reading this fine blog. Love and thoughts form a little island off Va. USA.

  2. April 18, 2020

    Thankyou for this piece. I loved the book about these plots, published a way back. I am v. glad they and the gardeners are still thriving.
    What is the beautiful rose behind Ron Osborne? I have been an allotmenteer for about 50 years and want to grow more flowers, starting with roses.
    Might there be another book about the Cable St. Gardeners in a pipeline, soon to emerge and delight even more reader/gardeners? I hope so !

  3. April 18, 2020

    “Annemarie Cooper – I’ve been gardening here for sixteen years and I don’t bother so much with vegetables now, my garden is basically a wildlife area. Those of us who encourage frogs have been using lion poo to keep the cats away from the ponds and it seems to work.”

    Please ask Annemarie where she gets the lion poo from?!? – I’m dying to know 🙂


  4. April 18, 2020

    I had no idea these gardens existed in downtown London. Wonderful. There are similar gardens in Barcelona, just outside of the Rabal, next to a very small and very beautiful romanesque church, Sant Pau del Camp.

  5. April 18, 2020

    Amazing Gardners and their Wonderful Flowers, Fruits and Vegetables!! They are Much Better than Me!!!????????

  6. Pauline Taylor permalink
    April 18, 2020

    Well done to all these gardeners, it is not easy to garden in areas like these but they are doing so well, and putting me to shame, I am now thinking about growing more veg as the only thing that I grow in my garden that I can eat, is wild strawberries. The fruit is very small but I thoroughly recommend them for flavour. They are invasive and will grow anywhere, mine even grow in the crack between the house and the paved area outside my back door, but they are very easy to pull out. and the fruit really is delicious.

    I hope the gentleman will be successful at growing roses, I have about ten of the old fashioned shrub rose variety and can grow them from any cutting, but, like one of the ladies, I am no good at growing things from seed which is something that has always puzzled me, cuttings yes, seeds no. Take care with the mint, mint is very very invasive and needs to be grown in a pot.

    My son is doing our shopping today so I have written courgettes and mint on the shopping list and can’t wait to give them a go, I always used to grow my own mint and a few other herbs too so I must make an effort to get back to it, thanks for giving me a push in the right direction today. As I am sure you can tell, anything to do with gardens and plants gets my immediate attention so thank you again for getting my day off to a good start, I love the photos.

  7. paul loften permalink
    April 18, 2020

    Absolutely delightful to see these gardens and to feel the sense of serenity that they evoke. Although could it be just a coincidence that Cable street was once the epicenter of scenes of great agitation and disruption, in London’s history in 1936? Perhaps just another one of the coincidences that history throws up over time.
    Thank you Gentle Author for the story and Chis Kelly for the photos

  8. Jeanne permalink
    April 18, 2020

    Thank you for sharing this place of calm and solace in these uncertain days —

  9. Saba permalink
    April 18, 2020

    A heartening post! Thank you, GA, for managing to post these enjoyable essays that are sensitive to the needs of the time. Social distancing and sheltering in place must be a hindrance to your work; nevertheless, you are doing a terrific job.

  10. Rupert permalink
    April 18, 2020

    Susan in Australia:
    Annemarie collects at source, then runs like hell 😉

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