Guerrilla Gardeners begin campaign in Portswood

Posted on February 19, 2010 by


A new Guerrilla Gardening group in Southampton teamed up with local residents to do their first dig in Portswood on Monday.  Around 15 members, some of whom are students from the University of Southampton’s Green Action Society, and 15 residents met up opposite the Drummond Arms on Welbeck Avenue to illicitly cultivate a long ignored patch of council land.

The Site, showing Southampton City Council's stirling work so far...

Guerrilla Gardening is the growing movement of people who want to improve their local environment and community by gardening on idle public land that local bodies have abandoned or have neglected.  As they don’t technically own the land, it is an act of civil disobedience against their local area being left to go to rack and ruin with local residents having no legal power to stop it.  But as it is public land paid for by our taxes, it is indeed indirectly ours anyway, just with the council as an appointed (although not very good) caretaker.

From the UK groups description, Guerilla Gardening is “a beautiful mix of civil disobedience, vegetables, flowers and positive modifications of the cities we live in to inspire pleasant surprises for everyone by planting free, wild, colourful and edible plants.”  There is neglected orphaned land all over the place, and in many cities pockets of resistance have broken out as guerilla gardeners fight back to reclaim this precious resource and cultivate it.

Yeah, right...

The patch chosen for the first dig lies in the NBSP Community Group area, an area of Portswood currently trying to convince the council to let them use a nearby lot of vacant council land (a sizeable plot at 3/4 of an acre) to build a community wildlife garden.  The council have so far resisted, officially on the basis of light contamination of the land being a risk to residents (despite the levels discovered being expected for a city like Southampton and so present in local gardens too), but it seems the real reason more likely lies in that the land is worth £1.3m, and having spent that money in expectation of selling the land several years ago only to be blocked by residents and the poor market, even a garden on a temporary, meanwhile basis has been resisted.  Support for the garden has come in from the local MP Alan Whitehead, local curch groups, charities, residents, the university, students and Transition Southampton.

The Guerrilla Gardeners and local residents at work

The Guerrilla Gardeners and local residents at work

It is hoped that this act of taking back a part of the local environment, improving and maintaining it will show the council that the residents are serious about improving the area through the community garden despite their blocking tactics.  The Guerrilla Gardening group have promised to return to the site, as well as take on other local plots and encourage people from across the city to do likewise in their local community.  The Blowhole can put anyone interested in joining them or asking a question in contact.