Design in Progress 


Having worked in community garden in Edinburgh (Wheatfields in Gorgy with Re:Solution), I returned to my home town of Ipswich in Suffolk with ideas, inspiration and via my old friends found out what was going on. I returned to live in a large house share of like minded folk and evening chats invariably involved "there's this thing going on that you'd love Dan".

This scheme I was told about was based in the local Community Volunteer Service building so I went in and said "how can I help?".

The Town and Bridge project had an ambitious plan to start a community garden and were preparing for an ITV People's Millions phone vote where viewers decide who get the cash. We won £82K and Julie had the task (ongoing) of dealing with the consequences. I got a 2/day week job and an overgrown field, myself and the others set to designing the garden. As the organisation was a huge job undertaken by others the design focuses on the site layout.

                                       Making the Advert for the ITV People's Millions vote which we won to get funding for the garden.


                                       The edges of the site had been cut leaving us an idea of the triangular shaped plot. Ric and I set up to measure it up. The edges were not straight so figures are approximate.

Approx DIMENSIONS=   100m by 40m by 130m
Approx AREA=    (100m x 40m) /2  = 2,000 m2  =  0.2 hectars (ha) or 0.5 Acre 

INsert photo of google earth here. not the derelection

                                             I lived one stop from Ipswich train station at the time so saw the plot on my way in. Note the bamboo canes used as markers.

We go the funding, had the site, staff employed and wanted to turn an area of disused allotment to a community garden. There were meetings and discussions and plenty of ideas. Initial designing was done together until I and my colleague Ric were asked to sit down together and plan it all. We both had permaculture knowledge and decided to get the base map sorted. We marked out the area using bamboos chopped from site, measured everything and got a base map together. With the help of google earth maps,1.148286&spn=0.001812,0.004801&t=h&z=18 we found that there had already been plots 10m by 30m and this helped us a great deal to work out the plot sizes. This also helped us create 10m by 10m blocks to grow in.

                                        The bamboo markers stayed in place for months whilst infrastructure started. Having a plan was very important to site key infrastructures such as water pipes, container, holding area for plants, tree planting etc.

The bamboo stakes came from a clump growing on site that were cut down. They helped visualise the base map which was drawn onto squared paper below. Using the previous plot edges plots of 10m by 10m were drawn up and a five square rotation set in place. This was the basis for our growing plan, but also got used to explain the days work to volunteers. We were able to start visualising the site from it.

    The first base map. Done in a day from measuring to colouring in. the picture doesn't show the whole site.

          the Computer Graphic Base Map showing the design for the People's Community Garden. See the plans for the green container, welcome space at the hub of the garden. Also the wildlife are and orchard at the furthest edge. 


ASPECT: Site is open and hedge lined on the North Western side with no shade, no wind issues and no gradient.

SOIL: sandy with pH of 6-6.5. Not used for many years, now couch grass.

COMMUNITY: Maidenhall Allotments in Ipswich surrounded by Maidenhall Estate with some deprivation. Many schools nearby. Allotment site had a new helpful field secretary, 1/3 in use, plotholders wary of 'change'. The Town and Bridge Project provided Management of the Garden (I staff), The garden had a coordinator  (4 days/ week) and 2 part time horticulturalists (2days/ week - me and an other).


Ric and I had a list of components that we needed to include in the design and used a zonal approach to fit the pieces together. We worked on the presumption that other ideas would be added. We considered how to encourage cycling of compost, water; the routes and journeys that would be taken, who would use the site and what they would need in terms of access, shelter etc.

The main entrance to the allotments is to the right so we knew we needed to have disabled parking/ off loading area to keep cars off the rest of the site. Arriving to a welcoming space was important for group visits and for a sense of community. We had ordered a container that had lockable tool store and office as well as a shelter/ tea making station. The container was located near to edge for boundary marking, shelter but mainly as it had to be craned over the hedge.
Each element of our design had factors for and against its potential placement. After a day of discussion we had make up our minds and understood the site, run through lots of what if scenarios and captures thoughts about water runoff from here to be used there etc. 

I created my own ZONES and aimed to rationalise the placing of items with respect to these zones.

ZONE 1: PEOPLE'S NEEDS. Access, tea breaks, whellies, welcome zone/ gathering zone, toilet, most used paths. Office,

ZONE 2: INTENSIVE GROWING: polytunnels, specialist growing areas. Main crops (only small site)

ZONE 3: EXTENSIVE GROWING: Orchards, Gardens areas, features

ZONE 4: WILD PLACES:  If any on an allotment!


Though a structured process for this design was designed we naturally followed a process of client interviews, discussion, using zones, playing about on paper before committing to a design. We chose to start with the container as a quick shelter and office. Then everything could be based around our Hub, considering the PASTE design items to include:

PEOPLE: volunteers, staff, groups (school, probation, corporate), locals, plotholders, tea, food, toilets, access, paths.
ANIMALS: insect polinators. Most unwanted: dogs, pidgeons, butterflies (no rabbits, deer spotted but not an issue luckily)
STRUCTURES: Container (shelter, office and tool store), polytunnels, bike storage, teaching space, welcome area. Hard landscaping, water collection
TOOLS: enough for groups, locked up, PPE, rotivators, Lawnmower, specialist tools.
EVENTS: Community Garden, locals, access, plotholders, traffic, H&S, Food, Open Days.

In a day we had thrashed out most of the items to be included. I worked at the People's Community garden for two years and in that time many of our initial ideas had slowly step by step been achieved. 

The welcome area turned Olympic Stadium and got shading. Used for Packed Lunches, seated tea breaks, group gathering

Water collection from Container and our sinks to the Willow tunnel.

Pond area and donated shed in wildlife garden.

Events: Tulip mania, Vegetable Olympics, Halloween, Winter Wasailing, Art projects, Clay oven, Afican Gardens, Olympic Gardens,

Bee Garden


Expansion into neighbouring plots. Initlally given to people as the plot filled up but those lasping allowed the garden to grow more.

Other groups, Transition allotment. Schools, Bangladeshi, Prisoners

Ongoing financing.

Side Entrance

Hand washing , storage, chaining up wheelbarrows. New taps,

Photo Gallery

  • about Permaculture and we discussed everything in terms of zones, hubs, distance needed to travel etc. 
  • Future tweeks: side entrance, wheelbarrow chain up, sinks for handwashing and tool cleaning, side storage onthe container, olympic stadium, themed areas (african, olympic beds). 
  • since I left the new Bee Garden, Chantry  Park Disused Nursery