Taking a spur of the moment detour on my way home today, I cycled up the ramp on to the high concrete walkways of the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle – a large and infamous housing estate, currently standing empty, all boarded up, awaiting demolition.
I’ve been wanting to explore it for ages, as I pass it often, and am inexplicably drawn to such places. I was not disappointed. It was Amazingness heaven!
Admittedly it was a bright sunshiny day today (after a big wet downpour), and I didn’t have to concern myself with exploring the potentially depressing, abandoned interiors because everything was boarded up.
I had expected to find lots of Amazingness, but the whole estate was way more peaceful and enchanting than I had imagined it would be. There were loads of green spaces, and not just barren grassy spaces, but places full of gorgeous trees, and all sorts of other growing things all over the place.
I even discovered some allotments. It turns out that some people – the Mobile Elephant Gardeners – have started planting up some of the ex-gardens and are growing food. It’s going to be another fifteen years or so before full demolition and redevelopment takes place, so they are making the most of it. And, according to MET police statistics, crime and anti-social behaviour on the site have declined significantly since they began gardening there.
Coming home, I investigated further. It turns out that there are over 400 mature trees growing there! Half of these are scheduled for demolition under the current redevelopment plans. Luckily, there is an organisation called Elephant and Castle Urban Forest who are campaigning to protect this secret woodland. All fingers crossed for the trees please.